Ambassadors, Sage and
In Memory of Gail "Little Bird" Freeland
Excerpts from an article written by Marilyn Pink in 2012 for Aaron Freeland's mother...
The first time he walked into my fine art gallery on La Cienega Boulevard, my reaction was, "My God, a real Indian." There was no doubt about it. About 27 years old, straight black hair to his shoulders, plaid shirt bulging at the waist button, worn jeans, and a deep voice. He stared at the floor. I said hello as I stood before him, and he replied, without looking up.
"Got any Pissarros?"
It was so unexpected; I stepped back and reevaluated who stood before me. Obviously he wasn't a customer and certainly I didn't think this uncomfortable shy young man was a thief.
"Yes," I replied, "Let me show them to you—three drawings." Without a word, he stared for a long time at the works I brought out, but did not bend down to see them better. He turned, and looking only at the floor again, asked, "Do you know Leo Castelli?"
Castelli was a very well-known contemporary art dealer who specialized in the likes of Warhol, Rauchenberg, and the New York group—long before these artists achieved the fame they have today.
All Images/paintings © 2015-2018 by Aaron Freeland
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"Yes, I do. But he's in New York." I was puzzled by his two questions: the desire to see the 19th-century Pissarros and the interest in Castelli.
"Are you an artist?" I asked on a hunch.
"Yup," he answered. Still no eye contact.
"And what kind of work do you do?"
"I'd like to see them sometime."
"Uh huh," he replied, and it was then that I noticed he carried a current issue of Art In America rolled up in his left hand and realized that his knowledge of art came from that particular magazine, which he then laid on one of the print cabinets. From within its covers, laced between the pages, he pulled about ten 4 x 5 inch portraits of Indian faces executed in oil pastels, overlaid with color patches in distinct forms. The colors were ones that Gaugin had used—orange beside purple beside apple green, varieties of yellow, cerulean blue and black. Great colors. The portraits were all somber, but the color forms atop the formal structure created both tension and mystery...
My appreciation and enthusiasm for each work was greeted with a deep voiced, "It's ok." Of course I bought them all, gave him a check and Aaron didn't say much afterwards but, "Thanks, I'll bring you more." He walked out of the door...
In those first years, he'd travel from Santa Fe to Los Angeles by Greyhound Bus, drop into the gallery with new pieces, some larger, each different, each fine. My enthusiasm was always greeted with, "They're okay." Almost everytime, he'd arrive with a present. One time he dropped the bus ticket he had used to make the trip onto my desk, and said, "I think you can use it for a tax deduction." I've also received an eagle's feather, which he assured me would bring good luck, a handful of sage which also came with a short report on its usage, a lovely necklace, and a beautiful keychain that his mother made of many different colored small beads...
One year, as I was going out the door to meet a colleague and collector in Santa Barbara, Aaron walked in and I impulsivlely invited him to ride along. I was sorry that I spoke so quickly, because how was I going to—for two hours—carry on a conversation with this man of few words? I needn't have worried. He sat facing out his window the entire time taking in the greenery and asking the name of each tree we passed.
"What's the name of that one?" And that one on the hill? We don't have trees like that at home." My one question to him on the ride was, "Where does the name Freeland come from?"
Short answer, "My father..."
On one of my trips to Santa Fe, he asked if he could show me around. He now addressed me as "Hey Marilyn."
He lived in Farmington, two hours out of town, so I felt it was a bit of an inconvenience for him to come into town. But he did, and told me the Indian names of every mountain and every canyon in the area. Over bumpy desert, devoid of real roads, in my rented car, he took me to see petroglyphs that he said the tourists didn't know about, to visit his artist buddy who had a beer can in his hand, and cars and trucks in his yard. We all sat on mismatched furniture in his trailer home talking and talking about tourists...
Aaron occasionally sent Indian artists to my California home, whom I believe, he had assured I would handle their work. They took my rejections very well, as if they expected it. It was only Aaron's work that I liked...
He had a habit of always taking a handful of my business cards from the gallery. Supposedly he handed them out to show that I was his dealer—a real art dealer—and although his action would not be tolerated by, let's say, Castelli, I was pleased that he was making money. From the gallery we sold to the German Ambassador to the United States, quite a few contemporary collectors, and some Asian collectors. But it was he who found for himself the Rockefellers, the curators at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and a whole group of New York society. He gleefully told me of his adventures in the "white man's world..."
Once, a dinner guest at the Rockefeller's New York apartment slowly and meticulously described the uses of the different forks beside his plate. [Aaron] told him, "Thanks, I thought I'd use my fingers..."
Aaron Freeland is represented by Marilyn Pink www.marilynpink.com/, in Culver City, California and
Danette Koke in New York www.danettekokefineart.com/
All images/paintings Copyright © 2018 by Aaron Freeland All rights reserved
Aaron with friend, Andy Bernard