Saturday, October 23, 2010

My Nomination for James Rosenquist for the North Dakota Rough Rider Award

March 30, 2010

Dear Governor Hoeven,

I’m writing to support the nomination of artist, James Rosenquist for the Rough Rider Award this year. He is native to North Dakota and has become one of the most prominent American artists of the past sixty years. I believe he is a superb example of the best of North Dakota. He has remained in touch with this area, and in fact, he has generously supported my growth as an artist.

I first met James Rosenquist in 2005 at the Plains Art Museum in Fargo. James was in town to receive his honorary doctorate degree from North Dakota State University. I was introduced to by my friend, Rusty Freeman, who was the curator at the Plains Art Museum. Mr. Rosenquist and I were talking about art in New York City and I told him I was an artist. Out of curiosity, James wanted to come over to my studio and see my artwork. James and I walked over to my small live-in studio right in the middle of his own party. My studio, at the time, wasn’t much at all. It was converted into a studio from an efficiency apartment. When James walked in, he looked at my color pencil drawings and painting and he really took a great interest in my artwork, especially my paintings.

2005 was the year I started to explore painting but due to the great cost, I was limited to a few tubes of paint and some in-expensive pre-stretched canvas. I would often dig in the garbage cans in the back of the NDSU Art Department for something to paint on even if it was cardboard. James Rosenquist saw great potential in my newly formed paintings. He also bought a small painting from me that first evening we met. Before he left my studio, that evening, I told him I wasn’t doing very well with my art career as I was struggling financially. At the time, I didn’t know who he was or his history as a pop artist. Mr. Rosenquist told me has was once in my shoes and that we all have to start somewhere. He told me not to give up and to work hard. After talking to James, my self-esteem greatly increased as a person and as an artist.

One month later, James sent me two rolls of acrylic primed canvas, a box of top quality oil paints and one thousand dollars to get my painting career started. Later that year, James sent me six large boxes of acrylic paint and another thousand dollars for more art supplies where he instructed me on what supplies to buy. In early 2006, I started to paint full-time, but due to the lack of experience I started out slow. James encouraged me during this touch time and I eventually started to learn as time went on. Later in 2007, James purchased three paintings from me and he kept in contact for updates on my progress. I have now completed ten large paintings and another painting in which James has already purchased. He has been showing my paintings to potential art collectors and art galleries in New York City with hopes of an exhibition of my work. James has not only financially supported my art career, he has given me hope and helped me build experience. Each time I receive a call, email or letter from James, I feel a boost in my confidence as an artist with his willingness to share his knowledge with me. I am grateful and honored to have met him and have him as my mentor.

James Rosenquist is a very important figure in North Dakota and has gained national recognition for his accomplishments in art. I hope that the state of North Dakota will honor his achievements by awarding him the Rough Rider Award when he is in Fargo to unveil his mural at the Plains Art Museum this October. Thank you for your consideration.


Star Wallowing Bull

Sunday, February 7, 2010

My Grandmother

My grandmother quietly passed away last June of 2009 during the White Earth pow-wow season. It came as a sudden surprise to us all. I personally took it hard. I didn't realize how close we were until she passed away, because she was more than my grandmother, she was also a mother figure as she helped raise my sister Fawn and I. The last time I saw her was Mother's Day, 2009. I drove to White Earth, Minnesota from Fargo, North Dakota to take her out to lunch at the Shooting Star Casino for their lunch buffet. My grandmother wasn't a gambler. She just really enjoyed socializing and smoking. I always got a kick out of her stories and gossip she told me. It was funny that people always believed her when she would make up stories about her kids and about people living on the reservation. I always knew she was exaggerating at times, but I enjoyed listening to my grandmother's stories and good humor. After our lunch we sat in her car and talked for an half hour. We started to talk about our relatives who passed away. She often talked about her grandson, my cousin Richard "Weasel" Norcross quite a lot. Weasel accidentally shot himself with a handgun back in 1991. He was my grandmother's favorite grandson. We all took it hard, especially Weasel's mother, my aunt Kathy Big Bear. My grandmother said that she was excited to see him and her other relatives when she would pass away. She also said she wanted to come and visit me after she passed away, just to let me know she was okay. I told her to "stop talking like that! You're not going to die anytime soon Grandma!" She seemed to be in good health and was only seventy eight years old. I went back to Fargo and I continued to keep in touch with her on the phone.

A month later, I was saddened by the news that my grandmother passed away due to her heart valve that gave out that was replaced ten years ago and the doctors told her at her age now, it was too big of a risk to replace it with a new valve. She was buried in Pine Point, Minnesota on the White Earth Reservation. Soon after the funeral, I started to sense my grandmother's presence on three occasions. The first time, I was at my drawing table and I felt like my grandmother was watching me draw and the following next week I sensed her again while painting. The last time, I was drawing and I smelled a strong odor of Aqua Net hair spray! I opened the door to my studio and smelled the hallway thinking it was one of the neighbors. I didn't smell anything, so I went back in and I could still smell it in my studio. My grandmother had used Aqua Net hair spray since I was a little boy. It's a smell that I'm very familiar with and I was really spooked out! The smell of hair spray soon disappeared.

I started to have dreams of my loved ones who passed away during my grandmother's passing. My best friend in grade school through Jr.High, Dale "Diggy" Butler, came to visit me in my dream. In the dream, Diggy was living in the woods by the Mississippi river in Minneapolis. He had squirrels, raccoons and rats living with him in a cardboard fort. Diggy was very happy to see me. My friend Diggy was fatally shot by gang members in Minneapolis in the early 1990's.

My cousin Marcel White Bird came to visit me in my dreams periodically after my grandmother passed away as well. In the dreams, Marcel seemed always happy to see me as I was to see him too. We would run through the woods of the Mississippi banks together only as children. Those were some of our most adventurous times in our lives growing up together.

My cousin Richard "Weasel" Norcross accidentally shot himself with a gunshot wound to the head in 1990. In my dream he was lying in bed in the hospital and as I was standing over his bed, he woke up and looked right at me. Weasel said, "I am alright" and slowly smiled at me. I was startled by his gaze and started to cry extremely hard because he was alive. Weasel wanted me to take him to a Pow-Wow so he could dance and he suddenly appeared with full dancing regalia, bells and feathers. I walked him out of the hospital but he seemed to be slow with his speech, body movement and barely made facial expression. I knew he was there but he was different like the gunshot wound to the head physically affected him in the after life.

The last and final dream of my grandmother came one month after she passed away. I was walking towards an old temple ruin with lush green vegetation. The temple looked like something you would see in Central America. As I came closer, I walked into the temple and saw torches on the wall that lit a long hallway. At the end of this hallway was my grandmother. She was sitting on a wooden chair. She stood up with her arms reaching out for me. I started to cry really hard. We hugged each other and she had told me she was alright and she loved me. My grandmother gave me a small gold bar (I still don't know what that small gold bar symbolized) and then she simply left.

These dreams felt so real to me.

I woke up crying extremely hard and I startled my girlfriend. I haven't cried like that since I was a boy. My heart was pounding hard and I was overwhelmed with love and the sad loss of losing my grandmother again. My girlfriend comforted me that morning and she said," Your grandmother was saying her final goodbye to you and she knew you would be o.k.". Since then, I haven't dreamed of my grandmother since then. I don't feel her presence anymore.

All the dreams I was having of my loved ones are gone as well. They seemed to have just vanished from my dreams and they have all moved on. I have been affected deeply by my grandmother's love throughout my years and the friendships of my other family and friends who have all passed away. I am told I have a gift to remember my dreams so distinctly, and I am honored that these and other people have come to visit me in my dreams. But most of all, it is my everlasting love that I have for my grandmother, that I know she is looking down on me, perhaps whispering in my ear words of encouragement as I would only know.