In 2010, while Native American artist and flautist Christopher James Rowland was deathly ill and under treatment by a medicine woman, he left his body and entered a world of energy and light. The paintings he later made, capturing that vision, along with his scenes from Native life, will be on display at Mirabai Books, Woodstock’s spiritual bookstore, in a pop-up art show on Saturday, October 6, from noon to 6 p.m. Rowland will also perform on his handmade flute.
Born Ma’heonehoo’estse, or Man from Holy Place, Rowland was raised on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation at Lame Deer, Montana. His family heritage is Northern Cheyenne (Tsitsistas) and Lakota. He began his commercial oil painting career at the age of 15 and was mentored by renowned Native artists including Neil Parsons and Howard Terpning. Rowland’s sculptures and mural displays are in public locations such as the Bronx Zoo, the Montana State Historical Society Museum, and the Crow Indian Agency Hospital.
He is known for his portraits of Native people, including dancers in regalia, as well as animals, such as bison and ponies. The series of panels based on his vision have brought his work in a new direction. “I’ve involved myself with certain understandings of life, energy, and sound, how all that comes together,” he said. “I made a presentation at the Sacred Arts Research Foundation in Brooklyn, and a vice president of the Tesla Science Foundation happened to be there. I described the upper and lower ether energies.”
Since then, he has moved to the Saugerties area to work with people from Tesla on a new presentation that will include TED talks. He wants to help people understand what he experienced in his vision. “When that world approached me, I realized it was inside of me. Different sayings — ‘You are what you eat.’ ‘Be careful of your thoughts’ — they all made sense to me when I saw the total connection of our thought process and how that worked. I saw how they moved, in striations of sound and light, and how it worked together.” He has recreated these impressions in his painted panels, which he says emit a specific energy.
In the vision, he perceived that “sound is light and light is sound. Everything that is light emits a frequency, and frequency is sound. Frequencies together create a signature, and that’s who we are as beings, each with a unique signature. Helping people see this is challenging for me.”
Rowland began to play the flute 15 years ago. “When I went into my Native background, it taught me what’s in between the spaces in sound, and it taught me about breath work, how sacred it is, keeping us alive. Our lungs are like branches of tree. The synapses in the brain are like root systems. We are mirror of nature itself. That opens up a lot of things for me.”
Jeff Cuiule, who runs Mirabai Books with his wife, Audrey Cusson, said Rowland stopped by as he was putting the last touches on the store’s schedule of fall workshops. “I was stunned by the workmanship,” said Cuiule. “The intimacy of his work gives a snapshot into the soul of his people.”
There happened to be an opening in the store’s schedule on Columbus Day weekend. “It seemed like an opportunity to expand the scope of Columbus Day to honor Indigenous Americans Day, which follows on Tuesday, by having a spotlight on Native art and culture,” said Cuiule. “And there’s an extremely spiritual nature to Christopher’s artwork and music. It’s almost the essence of what we are.”
Mirabai has also featured workshops by Native author and lecturer Evan Pritchard, such as a recent presentation on the guidance in medicine stories. On November 11, Pritchard will give a sneak preview of his forthcoming book on the Native American presence in Manhattan before the Dutch, including tales of a mysterious power place on the island.
Other scheduled events include various types of psychic readings, plus classes on storytelling alchemy, polarity therapy, energy healing, tarot, and more. On October 30, Adam Bernstein will lead a Halloween Spirit Mediumship Circle.
The Pop-up Native American Art Show (and Native Flute Airs) with Christopher James Rowland (Ma’heonehoo’estse) will be held on Saturday, October 6, from noon to 6 p.m. at Mirabai Books, 23 Mill Hill Road, Woodstock. See http://www.mirabai.com for descriptions of other upcoming workshops. Examples of Rowland’s work can be seen at http://www.thrillentertainmentgroup.com/chrisrowland.html.