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
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,
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.
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
film’s 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
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 Rowland’s 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,
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.
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
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
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,
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.
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.
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.
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 society’s elite, such as those on Forbes'
List of America's richest people, Hollywood movie stars,
and many captains of commerce and industry.
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
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, Rowland’s 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
Women’s Health Coalition Meeting, they requested
prints of the 72” x 67” painting commemorating their
signature slogan, “Your family’s health starts with
the Cultural Ambassador, Rowland supports Native Women
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
relevant Chris Rowland Websites: