The Medicine Man

A for­mer doc­tor, Mark Sublette has es­tab­lished an oasis in the desert with his 28-year-old gallery in Tuc­son, Ari­zona.

Western Art Collector - - CONTENTS - By Michael Claw­son

When Mark Sublette started his res­i­dency in medicine, and later his mas­ter’s de­gree, in Tuc­son, Ari­zona, the New Mex­ico res­i­dent was struck by how sim­i­lar Tuc­son, nick­named the “Old Pue­blo,” was to Santa Fe. “They re­ally were syn­ony­mous to each other start­ing with the moun­tains, but also fo­cus­ing on the desert and the food, mu­sic and art scenes as well,” Sublette says. “I felt like Tuc­son was re­tain­ing part of its past in ways that the rest of Ari­zona wasn’t, and it had a lot of iden­tity be­cause of that. I thought it was a gem of a place.”

Sublette never left Tuc­son, and to­day he owns one of the most prom­i­nent West­ern art gal­leries in the South­west, Medicine Man Gallery, which he started in 1992. In the years since he opened the gallery, Sublette and his wife, Kath­leen, have de­voted their lives to pro­mot­ing West­ern and Na­tive Amer­i­can art and the artists who make it, as well as of­fer topqual­ity ex­am­ples in the ar­eas of Navajo weav­ings, Pue­blo pot­tery, Na­tive Amer­i­can jew­elry, bronzes and paint­ings from top artists.

One of the keys to the gallery, he says, is to of­fer both his­toric and con­tem­po­rary works, an as­pect of the busi­ness that can be seen in ev­ery cat­e­gory, in­clud­ing in Pue­blo pot­tery with of­fer­ings from liv­ing artists, but also the great masters such as Nam­peyo, Maria Martinez, Tony Da and Mar­garet Tafoya. “I have work from all the Pueb­los and also what we call ‘rail­road pot­tery.’ When the trains came west in 1879, all the Pue­blo In­di­ans on the Rio Grande they wanted to make money with ev­ery­one else, so they started mak­ing

pot­tery to sell, in ad­di­tion to the pot­tery they were mak­ing for use and for trade. So you’ll see those early pots as well as new pots…a lit­tle bit of ev­ery­thing,” Sublette says. “And you’ll also see that in our Navajo and His­panic weav­ings— I prob­a­bly buy 10 new weav­ings ev­ery week, many di­rectly from the weavers—and in Na­tive jew­elry, which we deal with in large amounts.”

Ad­di­tion­ally, Medicine Man fea­tures many of the top West­ern painters and sculp­tors, in­clud­ing artists such as John Moy­ers, Matt Smith, Shonto Be­gay, Teal Blake, Dennis Ziemien­ski, G. Rus­sell Case, Ed Mell, Josh El­liott, Billy Schenck and many oth­ers. “When I look for artists for the gallery I’m look­ing for orig­i­nal voices. I want them to do some­thing dif­fer­ent than their peers,” he says. “Maybe it’s a dif­fer­ent way they han­dle color or light, or just a dif­fer­ent sen­si­bil­ity to the paint or clay. When an artist has a unique qual­ity and clearly de­vel­oped style it shows in their work, and that’s what I want.”

An­other el­e­ment that Sublette likes to fo­cus on is keep­ing his col­lec­tors, and even just ca­sual ob­servers of West­ern art, in­formed about the var­i­ous as­pects of the art mar­ket. He does this through his pop­u­lar Art Dealer

Di­aries pod­cast, his in­for­ma­tive Youtube videos, a weekly newslet­ter and his web­site, www.medicin­e­man­, which serves as hub for all the con­tent he makes. “I’m al­ways think­ing of the col­lec­tor. There’s a lot of ma­te­ri­als out there in the world and if I can ed­u­cate peo­ple so they don’t make any mis­takes it’s bet­ter for all of us,” he says. “I try to spread the knowl­edge around as best I can, whether it’s re­lated to buy­ing, sell­ing, val­u­a­tion or any­thing else.”

Sublette says the gallery has even started ex­pand­ing into es­tate col­lec­tions, which has brought some amaz­ing new art­works into the gallery. Ev­ery­thing of­fered in the gallery, more than 7,000 items al­to­gether, can be found on the web­site, and al­ways with a listed price. “It’s im­por­tant for that process to be trans­par­ent to the col­lec­tor so they can shop and com­pare,” the gallery owner says. “Some­thing cool I like to also men­tion is that our web­site was started in 1996, way be­fore even Google. We’ve re­vamped the site sev­eral times, but we’ve had an on­line pres­ence for a long time.”

For Sublette’s next show, he will ring in the new fall sea­son with a group ex­hi­bi­tion fea­tur­ing many of the gallery’s top artists, in­clud­ing Mell, Blake, El­liott, Ziemien­ski, Terri Kelly Moy­ers, Brett Allen John­son, Fran­cis Liv­ingston, Howard Post, Gary Ernest Smith, De­ladier Almeida and many oth­ers.

Schenck, who has shown at Medicine Man Gallery for many years, will be pre­sent­ing one of his fa­mous comic-in­spired paint­ings with word bub­bles for his two West­ern fig­ures. “Did you sell the ranch?” asks a fe­male fig­ure. A cow­boy char­ac­ter replies, “I can’t re­mem­ber.” The works em­pha­sizes Schenck’s off-kilter per­spec­tive of the West, which he in­jects into many of his work with hu­mor and his Pop Art sen­si­bil­ity.

Bring­ing his care­ful use of color and de­tail, David Meikle will be of­fer­ing Big Bend, Zion Canyon, a 60-inch-tall up­ward view from the floor of Utah’s fa­mous na­tional park, while Jill Carver will be show­ing a more painterly desert scene in Rain Show­ers Over Rio Grande Gorge, with pur­ple clouds that loom large over a sagestrewn desert val­ley. An un­ti­tled work by Jim Wood­side takes a more mod­ernist ap­proach to a desert land­scape, with geo­met­ric for­ma­tions in the cloud and bold col­ors swept to­gether with his for­mi­da­ble brush­strokes.

Fresh off a busy sum­mer, Glenn Dean will be bring­ing Navajo Rid­ers, a 24-by-24-inch oil on can­vas that shows a trio of fig­ures with a large rock face be­hind them in the dis­tance.

“The idea for this piece came from a trip I took to the South­west sev­eral years ago with some artist friends,” Dean says. “I was driv­ing back home alone through the Navajo reser­va­tion and saw some Nava­jos on horse­back com­ing over a small ridge with a large back­lit sand­stone cliff be­hind. I was im­me­di­ately in­spired by what I saw but it was just a fleet­ing im­pres­sion of it as I was driv­ing past on the highway at 60 mph so I fi­nally put this paint­ing to­gether in an at­tempt to honor that mo­ment.”

Eric Bow­man will be rep­re­sented by Deer Hunter, a for­est scene with a fig­ure bend­ing down to ex­am­ine some­thing in the dirt. “Deer Hunter is the sec­ond in a se­ries I’ve been work­ing on in­volv­ing a young hunter. The model is a teenage neigh­bor of mine who had the look I was after; a lit­tle sea­soned but still wet enough be­hind the ears to be in awe of the whole ex­pe­ri­ence,” Bow­man says. “As al­ways, the nar­ra­tive of my paint­ings are open-ended al­low­ing the viewer to write the story…is he out for the sport, or un­der pres­sure to pro­vide for his fam­ily while fa­ther is away at war? Ei­ther way, it’s a por­trait of a young man pit­ted against na­ture in a time-hon­ored Amer­i­can tra­di­tion.”

Stephen C. Datz is a fea­tured artist in many of Medicine Man’s shows, and he re­turns this year with an­other slightly ab­stracted view of South­west­ern land­scapes. “This idea orig­i­nated on one of my many hik­ing trips into the Es­calante area of south­ern Utah,” Datz says of Canyon Rhythms. “It is an un­usual view of a sub­ject that would typ­i­cally be ap­proached from a broader per­spec­tive—the mag­nif­i­cent Es­calante Nat­u­ral Bridge. What we see here is the east­ern abut­ment of this im­pres­sive sand­stone arch and part of the canyon wall be­hind it. I had hiked right up un­der­neath the huge span for a bit of shade and rest, and was im­me­di­ately struck by the un­usual com­po­si­tional pos­si­bil­i­ties in this view and the mar­velous rhyth­mic pat­tern of light and shade. The way the light was strik­ing the con­tours of the bridge and the bit of canyon be­hind it fired the shadow ar­eas with an amaz­ing glow as it re­flected from the sand­stone. The cool, shaded fore­ground di­rectly un­der the span, in which I was sit­ting, pro­vides the per­fect note of con­trast. Find­ing these ‘right place, right time’ sort of sur­prises off the beaten path is my fa­vorite part of go­ing out into the land­scape to paint.”

The show opens Novem­ber 15 and con­tin­ues through De­cem­ber 13.

Above: Medicine Man Gallery owner Mark Sublette. Op­po­site page: Stephen C. Datz, Canyon Rhythms, oil, 24 x 20”

Paint­ings and bronzes on dis­play at Medicine Man Gallery in Tuc­son, Ari­zona.

The gallery is known for its ex­cep­tional se­lec­tion of Na­tive Amer­i­can ma­te­ri­als, in­clud­ing Navajo weav­ings.

In­te­rior of the Tuc­son gallery.

Jill Carver, Rain Show­ers Over Rio Grande Gorge, oil on can­vas, 36 x 36”

Jim Wood­side, Un­ti­tled, oil on panel, 24 x 20”

Eric Bow­man, Deer Hunter, oil, 24 x 24”

John Moy­ers, Great is His Power, oil on panel, 36 x 36”

Billy Schenck, Did You Sell the Ranch, oil on can­vas, 45 x 35”

Glenn Dean, Navajo Rid­ers, oil on can­vas, 24 x 24”

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