Marvin Sin (left) admires some of his early work with a client at his 50th anniversary kickoff event in Bowie on Jan. 27.
Marvin Sin (left) admires some of his early work with a client at his 50th anniversary kickoff event in Bowie on Jan. 27.

Artist and activist Marvin Sin kicked off his 50-year anniversary tour in Bowie, Maryland, recently with a reception and art show.

Sin, an artist who specializes in wearable artistic leather goods, was based in D.C. for over 20 years, making the region a fitting place to kick off his anniversary tour on Jan. 27. The tour plans include a book release, artistic shows and receptions in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Detroit, and Atlanta.

“Art was always with me,” Sin said. “In fact, when I went to Columbia [University], they had an art school there so I took a painting class, but you couldn’t major in art, but there was a community of artists in school and we did a couple of exhibitions together.”

Fortuitously, college roommate Larry Frazier’s present to his mother —a Tandy leather item — led to a long-lasting passion and career.

“I saw him working with leather one day at the apartment and that led me to go buy a skin of leather and make up a bag,” Sin said.

Since that fateful day, Sin has spent over 50 years creating one-of-a-kind pieces that blend drawing, painting and craftsmanship in a way that is wholly unique.

However, for a time, finances proved to be a primary motivation.

“It was something I could do to make a little money off of because of the work I was doing at the time — we weren’t making any money, but the rent was always due,” Sin said with a laugh.

Some of his most significant works were produced as part of artist collectives he co-founded or participated in over the years.

“When I got to D.C., I was told to check with Vernard Gray of the Maya Gallery of 11th Street in terms of setting up an artistic showing,” Sin said. “Without question or hesitancy, he said, ‘When do you want to do it?’”

He is quick to credit other artists and collaborators for his success.

Reception guests appreciated the decades of work.

“I’ve known Marvin for over 30 years,” said Collette Brown of Alexandria, Virginia. ” I met him in the early ’80s and admired his work because I had never seen anything like it before.

“As a teacher of African-American studies through history, I’ve embraced [the work] and it has been my privilege to have Marvin as a friend and to come to all of his wonderful shows and to have a whole collection of his specialized and one of a kind designs,” Brown said.

Fellow artist Amber Mims was also appreciative.

“It’s been amazing to grow up and have him as an example of an artist who is making a living and taking care of his family,” she said. “I wish him congratulations.”

Even as Marvin Sin celebrated his 50th anniversary, he remained focused on the future and activism through art.

His advice for the future generation of artists?

“Get over yourself!” he said. “It’s not about you. You need to form and connect with a group of other like-minded, spirited creative people and work collectively to support and sustain each other.”

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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