Artist and OVAC intern Kelley Lunsford interviewed gallery owner Tom Farris to learn more about his work, how he selects artists, and more. Farris runs Standing Buffalo Indian Art Gallery & Gifts at 106 E Main in Norman. The first (of 3) section of the interview is focused on his background and gallery.
KL: How did you become an art gallery owner?
TF: I have always grown up with Indian art. My parents have been collectors since before I was born. Growing up around it fostered an appreciation for it and gave me a background in the field as I worked as the Assistant Director of the Jacobson House Native Art Center here in Norman and later as the creator and manager of the Cherokee Art Market in Tulsa.
KL: What education is required for this job?
TF: I personally feel that I was best prepared for owning a gallery by being immersed in it all my life. I've had an informal education in Indian art by growing up with collectors and spending my formative years in various artists’ homes, galleries and museums. I have been very fortunate to have had previous positions that have allowed me to get to know many of the contemporary Indian artists and continue my education in a hands-on environment.
KL: You do something very unique at your gallery with the “Live Art Auction”. What exactly takes place and who are the artists that have participated?
TF: The most gratifying thing for me as a gallery owner is freedom to do produce the kind of shows and events I want. Things that I couldn't do in previous positions due to politics or restrictions in policies, I can do here and seeing them be successful is a great feeling. One of those projects is Live Paint, a tremendous event, which features a variety of Native American artists. During this event artists are given a blank canvas and then have two hours to produce a brand new piece of work, live for an audience. We have had some excellent participate including: Micah Wesley, Matthew Bearden, Brent Greenwood, Marwin Begaye and d.g. smalling, all of whom have drastically different styles and techniques and watching each produce their work is a real treat. In addition to the visual entertainment of the event we have live music being played, which I think influences the artists and then at the end of the night, we auction the finished paintings off.
KL: How far have you traveled to look at a potential piece of artwork?
TF: Probably Seattle, that wasn't for a particular piece, but a buying trip. Seattle, Santa Fe, Albuquerque, sometimes you have to go where the art is being produced.