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You asked her to hold a painting for you?

What did he say?

I was presenting a painting of Chinook Chief Comcomly – who dates back to the Lewis and Clark Expedition – to current Chinook Tribal Chief Cliff Snider. She had just exited the stage with her aide at the dedication ceremony and I approached her and asked her if she would hold the painting as I was presenting it to the Chief and getting some photos taken.

He wouldn’t talk. That was a lot of work to amuse an indecisive gallery owner. I was pretty upset by the whole thing. But my artist friends consoled me and said, “You know Mark, it didn’t work out this time, but it will, and now you have a great body of work to show for it.”

mouth from that particular gallery owner that we talked about. I had been told that the market in Santa Fe was very fickle. So I had a poor view of gallerists there. You changed your mind? I see now that I had the wrong view. But it took me a while to recover from that bad experience. But now I’m in a top gallery down there, on Canyon Road, rated in the “Top 10.” My new gallerist is great, forthright, and the staff is the best ever.

That had to have been a busy day for her. It was (laughs). But Maya Lin’s aide said, “Better yet let’s get a picture of you and Maya together!” You can’t beat that. Furthering your art career hasn’t always been so easy has it? I was looking for gallery representation a few years ago and had a great response from a gallery owner in Santa Fe. He made me jump through quite a few hoops. But I really thought that this was my big chance. He told me he wanted five more pieces. I said, “Okay, how large do you want those pieces?” He pointed to the wall and said, “That large.” In the months it took to create all of those pieces, I followed all of his instructions, sending photos and details of the new work and keeping in touch. What happened when you were ready to sign a contract? After several attempts, I phoned the gallery director who told me that he would put me on speaker phone with the gallery owner who was sitting there next to the speaker. 40

It was quite clear to me that you put your heart and soul into those pieces. Did that struggle give you a sense about what you wanted to focus on in your work?

In the art world Santa Fe is big.

With both my landscape series and my portrait series it all boils down to the people. Whether they’re interacting in a vast landscape, or whether it’s a portrait close-up. The people are the basis of my work. People ask me, why don’t you do paintings of birds and wildlife? To me, where are the people?

Were there other venues for your art in Portland?

You had several smaller shows and group shows along the way. Then along came an offer for a solo show in the Pearl District. How did that go? It was a magical time for me. I’ve been an artist all my life. It was the first opening that my father had come to. There was a native flutist performing, Milledge Bennett, and he played an honor song for both Chief and my dad, the two most important men in my life. What came next? After that show I continued to sell my work during Indian Market in Santa Fe. I had gotten a bad taste in my


Dollar-wise it’s the second largest art market in the United States. Only New York is bigger.

I love the Portland arts scene. Unfortunately for me there was only one Native American gallery here – Quintana in the Pearl District. Although they’re a fantastic gallery, known nationwide, their genre is traditional Northwest Coast art, not contemporary native art. Santa Fe was a natural fit for me. But you did get a great show at Gallery 7126 before the owners went on sabbatical. How difficult is it for a Portland artist to get gallery representation? It’s a struggle. The course I took was to first show for my personal gratification, not particularly for the sales. Then to get it up on walls so that everyone could experience it. Then, finally, to sell my work and plant my work in various homes and corporations worldwide. I’ve met art school students who think that a limousine is going to pull up and whisk them away to fame and fortune on graduation day. It’s not that way. I’ve worked hard and spent a lot of resources to get here.

Profile for ABOUT FACE Magazine

About Face Magazine - Issue 01  

Portland's interview Magazine - In this issue we interview China Forbes from the band Pink Martini, as well as Rachel Mara, fashion designer...

About Face Magazine - Issue 01  

Portland's interview Magazine - In this issue we interview China Forbes from the band Pink Martini, as well as Rachel Mara, fashion designer...