Rocky Barstad has overcome many challenges in his 60 years. No matter what those challenges were, he rose above them and found a career that engaged his heart, hands and mind as an internationally acclaimed Native American artist. From paintings, wall murals and sculptures to painted buffalo skulls and detailed replications of Native American artifacts, Rocky’s career has been the sharing of history and story-telling through his work.
Now, Rocky has a new challenge. It won’t still the desires of his heart to work or stop the dreams and visions that his mind creates. It will, however, affect his hands, his most important tools that transfer those images to his chosen artistic medium. Rocky Barstad has Parkinson’s disease.
This diagnosis has not only affected Rocky physically, it also means he can no longer continue operating his beloved Two Feathers Gallery in High River, Alberta. On November 23rd, 24th and 25th, the Two Feathers Gallery will be having a closing sale. Rocky’s remaining art, as well as his large collection of Native American artifact replicas will be offered alongside work from other wonderful Native American artists.
Rocky, and his wife Judy, wish to thank the many patrons and customers that have supported his artistry through their appreciation of his work. To the mentors and the many people that walked his artist’s journey with him, he is truly grateful for their help and guidance.
In the past, art enriched Rocky’s life in so many ways; in the future, it will be part of his therapy.
Two Feathers Gallery is located at 153 Macleod Trail, High River, Alberta. Sale hours are Noon – 8pm, Friday, November 23rd & Saturday, November 24th and Noon – 4pm., Sunday, November 25th.
Below is my original column on Rocky and Two Feathers Gallery published December 20, 2011.
Rocky Barstad – Two Feathers Gallery
Rocky Barstad and Dzona Gu Bronze Scupture
“Draw, draw some more and never stop drawing. Draw from real life. Drawing is the best exercise and real life subjects are the best teachers. The better you can draw, the better you can be at whatever medium you choose.” This is Rocky Barstad’s philosophy and he practices it every day.
Encouraged by teachers, mentors and his family in his youth, Rocky’s artistic journey has led him to be an internationally acclaimed artist in Native American and Western Art. He credits his mother, Lillian Barstad, for teaching him the appreciation of fine workmanship. His father, Arthur Barstad, taught him the importance of sound work ethics.
Put fine workmanship and hard work together and you see why Rocky’s paintings, sculptures, wall murals and traditional, native artifact, replicas are in demand. As an artist, he not only teaches and mentors students, he believes in continually learning for himself as evidence from recently returning from a workshop given by Edmond Jacob at the Scottsdale Artists School.
Young Blood II
Mentors have always been an important part of Rocky’s long career and he speaks of them with reverence and gratitude. Harley Brown, the well-known Western artist and “Bob” Scriver, the sculptor, are two artists that helped guide and shape his career.
Bronze sculptures became part of Rocky’s repertoire in his early 30’s after watching Bob create and transform an elephant into a bear from wax while Rocky’s daughter was sitting on Bob’s knee. Upon returning home, Rocky made a mountain man shooting a black powder gun and had it cast. This piece sold out and he never looked back.
In 1994, Rocky was commissioned by the Canadian Pacific Hotels & Resorts to create a wall mural for their hotel in Kananaskis Country, Alberta. Using a four inch brush and mural paint, he relished in the freedom, brought forth from his experience and technique, of painting on the eighty by fifteen foot wall. The mural, a Native Village from the early 1800’s, led to many other commissions including two murals for the Calgary Exhibition and Stampede.
Painted Buffalo Skull
Rocky’s attention to detail and authenticity is reflected in his Painted Buffalo Skulls and Native Artifact Replicas. Out of respect for his culture, he went through the Native ceremony that bestowed upon him the right to paint and sell the Buffalo Skulls. This same respect manifests itself in the fine craftsmanship and materials used in replicating the Native Artifacts.
War Shirt Replica
In 1996, Rocky opened Two Feathers Gallery at 153 Macleod Trail, High River, Alberta. The Gallery showcases not only his own work but that of other Native artists. There are soapstone sculptures, Kachina dolls, woodwork, jewelry, bead and quill work, as well as music and Native artifacts.
Two Feathers Gallery
Two Feathers Gallery Interior
Inside the Gallery, Rocky has a wonderful collection of original, museum quality Native artifacts. This collection not only houses pieces he has personally sought out, but many of them have been gifts from Native leaders. The gifts have been in appreciation for Rocky’s promotion and education of Native culture in the community as well as abroad.
Spend some time with Rocky in his Two Feathers Gallery. You’ll not only be surrounded by wonderful Native and Western Art, you’ll gain a better understanding of a working artist.