• "My intention as an artist has always been to convey a reality found in the illusion. The challenge for me is to "see" how colors induce emotion within the human spirit and to bring that to my canvas for the viewer... 

    I believe that music is the reformed spirit of the soul; it must intercede within the realm of graphic interpretation, and is therefore a very important part of my creative process...

    I am quick to see that I am only a student in this veritable plane of inspiration, a child from the beginning." 

    written in 2009 under a sycamore tree

     

        Christopher James Rowland, Ma'heonehoo'estse ("Man of the Holy Place"), is a renowned artist from the Northern Cheyenne Nation (Suhteao'o and Tsistsistas). Widely known for his stirring depictions of Native American people and landscapes, his artwork is exhibited in museums, exhibition halls, and private collections around the world. Rowland was born and raised on the reservation in east-central Montana and began painting when he was 7 years old. It was a tough life, yet from this oppressive experience he learned resiliency and perseverance, making him a standout athlete and a gifted artist. 

     

    Rowland sold his first 18"x 24" oil painting sophomore year of high school and that same year signed his first commercial contract to design tee-shirt logos for Bears Den of Colstrip, MT. 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. 1989 brought the nationally acclaimed film "Powwow Highway." 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 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.

     

    Then Rowland met Jack Hines and Jessica Zemsky, his first art mentors, at the Toucon Gallery in Billings, MT. Upon seeing Rowland's work, they offered him a scholarship to their workshop in Big Timber. Hines later wrote an article for Southwest Art Magazine praising his skill, "Through study and practice Rowland perfected his knowledge of drawing, anatomy and perspective and now paints his impressions of contemporary and historical Native peoples using expressionistic color."

     

    In 1990, Rowland was commissioned to design capital pieces for the Bronx Zoo in 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 newspapers. 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. Around this time, 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, Blackfoot abstract artist and professor of fine art, Neil Parsons, told Rowland, "Chris, you don't need to go to an academic institution to further your career, instead find an artist whose work you like and study from them." He took the advice to heart and sought out James Poulson, an accomplished water/oil painter and guitarist who introduced Rowland to a whole new world of color concepts and helped him view composition and light from a new perspective. He also studied with Howard Terpning, known as perhaps the finest painter of Plains Indian Art, who later became one of Rowland's collectors.

     

    Ten years of artist-in-mentoring passed and Rowland refined his oils artistry and developed as an American Indian flutist. As a composer, he mixed centuries-old, Northern Cheyenne modalities and twentieth-century, neo-classical influences, shaped into new compositions. As an accomplished musician, he has released two albums "Dreams May Come" and "Flute Dreaming."  He has collaborated with world-renowned musicians and continues to compose songs and blesses many performances with his flute melodies. "Oftentimes my flute becomes a prayer that is calming and soothing to me, so I share this medicine together with everyone."

     

    In 2006 Rowland was appointed as the Cultural Ambassador, working as a liaison between the Governor's Office and the Northern Cheyenne Tribe. The Montana State Tribal Development Commission recognized him as the first "Indianpreneur."   He was invited to showcase his large-scale oil paintings in the Governor's Office and his 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 You.” As Cultural Ambassador, Rowland supports Native Women's health. 

     

    Among Rowland's accomplishments is a 10-by-30 foot mural in the Crow/Northern Cheyenne Hospital and a 6-by-15 foot mural in the Montana Historical Society. His current projects include working on the Sand Creek Massacre Memorial Bronze design team for the Colorado State Capitol. He is also collaborating with his Dad, James C. Rowland, EdD, on a series of buffalo hides depicting Cheyenne history, sanctioned by the Chiefs and Warrior Societies. Along with a new series of paintings, Rowland is perfecting the "Rowland Light Panels" with the copper sculptures, in which a tetrahedron is assembled with a spiral to form an "energetic and purifying field." 

     

    In a 2022 article published by Navajo Times, reporter Rima Krisst wrote, "[Rowland] believes it’s essential to pursue the gifts given to one. 'You’ve got to accept every gift – don’t let it go,' he said. 'Let it pour out. You’ll never fail,' he said. 'You will know that the gift was given to you because you are special, and you are blessed. The gift is yours. Protect it. Be thankful, and you’ve got it made.'

     

    Rowland’s artwork, both visual and audio, creates a peaceful and tranquil environment for everyone to enter and enjoy the moment, and it’s meaning, for their lives. To learn more about the projects and his organization ATP (American Tribes Project) visit www.americantribesproject.org

    Sound of Light, 36 x 24 inches, triptych o/c (Rowland Light Panels)