Christopher James Rowland
Christopher Rowland was born and raised on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation, at Lame Deer, Montana,
which was a tough life. Yet from this oppressive experience he learned resiliency and perseverance, making him a standout young athlete, as well as a gifted, but struggling artist. Rowland found his escape from his tortured youth in painting. Even though his first art teacher severely discouraged his efforts, he focused even more energy on his oil paintings. The youthful, exuberant Rowland sold his first 18" x 24" oil painting during his sophomore year in high school. That same year Rowland signed his first commercial contract to design tee-shirt logos with Bears Den of Colstrip, MT. He no longer believed his tormenting teacher, and he never looked back to her for guidance again. A short few years later, at only 20 years of age, he painted his first commissioned portrait, a larger-than-life work, of the twin children of fellow Northern Cheyenne, Leroy Spang.
1986 and 1987 brought the making of the feature film "Pow Wow Highway." The movie won Best Director, Best Picture and Best Actor awards from the Native American Film Festival. Rowland was commissioned to paint the films classic car, Philbert's war pony, dubbed "The Protector." After their first meeting, director Jonathan Wacks also asked Rowland to portray the part of White Cloud, a vision character. His first exposure to the film world was enlightening, and just the beginning of his developing interest in the film medium. At the completion of the movie, Rowland returned to painting and began preparing for his first Gallery exhibition.
Next, Rowland met Jack Hines and Jessica Zemsky, his first mentors, at the Toucan Gallery in Billings, MT, in 1988. Upon seeing Rowland's work they offered him a scholarship to their two week workshop in Big Timber. Hines later wrote an article for Southwest Art Magazine praising Rowlands skill.
Two years later, Rowland was commissioned to design capital pieces for the Bronx Zoo, New York City.
His art is prominently displayed there in the Northern Ponds, between the Tiger and Bear exhibitions. The unveiling of the new exhibit was captured in a highly acclaimed spread in the New York Times and L.A. Times. In Montana, Rowland was featured on NPR's Native News with reporter, Jackie Yamanaka.
In 1991 the Yellowstone Art Museum declined to display one of Rowland's modestly-priced paintings because they claimed his listed price was too high. This was the first, but not the last, time Rowland would experience this kind of pricing prejudice. In 1992, he traded with Tilly Pierce, of Pierce Automotive, that very same painting in exchange for a '92 Cutlass Sierra, many times more valuable than the previously declined modest price. T.R. Glenn, a silversmith and friend, encouraged him to expand his work to the Southwest. Moments later Rowland packed his Cutlass and drove nearly one thousand miles to Santa Fe, New Mexico, a Southwest art Mecca.
Soon after his migration, Neil Parsons, a Blackfoot Indian, abstract artist, and professor of fine art, told Rowland,
"Chris, you don't need to go to an academic institution to further your career. Find a painter whose work you admire, and study with him for a while, get to know his process and learn technique that way." Rowland took Parson's advice to heart, and sought out James Poulson. An accomplished water color/oils painter and gifted guitarist, Poulson introduced Rowland to a whole new world of color concepts. He also inspired Rowland to delve into the
spiritual connection between color and sound. They painted together, and Poulson helped Rowland view composition and light from a new perspective. Soon after this collaboration commenced, Rowland started playing the Native Indian wooden flute.
Rowland also sought the world-renowned Howard Terpning, known as perhaps the finest painter of Plains Indian Art. Terpning became a mentor and friend, giving him extensive critiques and guidance. Later, Terpning became one of Rowland's collectors purchasing a Rowland work at the 1998 American Miniatures Show, Settlers West Gallery, Tucson, AZ.
Ten years of artist-in-mentoring passed. Rowland refined his oils artistry and developed as a Native Indian flautist. As a composer he mixed centuries-old, Northern Cheyenne modalities with twentieth-century, neo-classical influences, shaped into new compositions. The sun-baked, Santa Fe scene blended rock stars and the rich-and-famous with the artist community and their Southwest-influenced works into a close knit community. Rowland thrived in this environment.
Then, in 2002, he was gravely injured. Rowland was swept up by the Santa Fe police in a wrong place, wrong time scenario. He was brutally assaulted while in custody in a racially motivated attack. As a result, he was forced to return to the Northern Cheyenne Reservation at Lame Deer, MT, to undergo a major, emergency surgery. During his recovery he was not able to paint, an emotionally painful and depressing circumstance that heightened his sense of loss and injury.
When he was finally well enough to be on his feet, he was immediately back to his passions, the canvas and his native flute.
Now, thankful for each day life brings the sunrise, Rowland takes nothing for granted. This appreciation for life is really evident in the passionate maturity of his oils and the meditative melodies of his musical compositions.
Not long after his recovery, Rowland relocated to Basin, MT. There he met India Supra, executive director of the internationally-acclaimed yoga retreat, Feathered Pipe Ranch of Helena, MT. Supra invited Rowland to display his art work in the main lodge of the ranch. It was the first of many showings for the Feathered Pipe clientele, who include societys elite, such as those on Forbes' List of America's richest people, Hollywood movie stars, and many captains of commerce and industry.
Rowland was appointed as the Cultural Ambassador for the Northern Cheyenne Nation in 2006. His website is showcased on the Montana State Tribal Development (STED) Commission's site and he is recognized as the first "Indianpreneur." The STEDC offered him the opportunity to present his works in Governor Brian Schweitzer's Office. He proudly rotates various large-scale oil paintings there, and Governor Schweitzer has become a collector of Rowland works.
Further recognition of his art by the Montana state government came when their Tribal Relations Report of 2006, subtitled The Art of Cooperation, featured Rowland oils on the front and back covers, as well as throughout the 70-page report. Also, Rowlands riveting work, The Butterfly Dancer, was recognized as a superb representation of the Pink Shawl Dancer tradition by the Montana Breast & Cervical Health Program. In sponsoring their Montana American Indian Womens Health Coalition Meeting, they requested prints of the 72 x 67 painting commemorating their signature slogan, Your familys health starts with you. As the Cultural Ambassador, Rowland supports Native Women health issues.
Rowlands artwork, both visual and audio, creates a peaceful and tranquil environment for everyone to enter and enjoy the moment, and its meaning, for their lives. Christopher Rowland is on the fast and steady track to becoming an international phenom. You can learn more about him, see more paintings and hear more music compositions by Rowland at chrisrowlandart.com
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