When Tempo introduced Mark Maggiori to our readers recently, we exposed but a fraction of this French ex-pat’s proverbial iceberg. We heard about his first road trip across America at age 15 (with the same uncle who later encouraged him to study at the Academie Julien in Paris) and his arrival here in Taos, but there is so much more to discover beneath the surface of things where Maggiori is concerned.

So, to remedy appearing irreverent, one day, last summer I paid the artist a visit at his new studio overlooking Taos Mountain from its well-hidden, verdant spot in the valley. A large, comfortably appointed space with vaulted ceilings (he raised them), the expanse of windows letting in the stark northern light that painters treasure so.

A tall, good-looking, and charming man, Maggiori cuts a charismatic figure with his sartorial choices; a modern riff on iconic Western-style that nods to Spaghetti Westerns and Americana. This afternoon he was sans hat, in a shirt, well-worn khaki pants and suede moccasins. A painter’s apron was wrapped around his waist. He was working.

We were joined by Ashley Rolshoven of Parsons Gallery, and Davison Koenig from the Couse Foundation (pictured below), both of whom have become integral to Maggiori’s sojourn in Taos; introducing him to tribal members from the Pueblo who would become models, guides and ultimately close friends. The symbiosis works both ways.

Maggiori has responded in turn by being a very generous and hands-on benefactor to the arts program at Taos Day School. In partnership with Parsons Fine Art and The Couse Foundation, he created Taos Pueblo Art Education Fund. They have since raised over $15,000 for Taos Pueblo Day School. He has also launched a mentorship program in his new studio to share his skill and love of art with others.

“A lot of people come here and paint the Native people and the landscape, and then they leave,” Rolshoven noted. “Mark not only gives back, he lives here. He is a part of the community, just as the TSA were.” Rolshoven, whose mother is Lakota, has a deep commitment to the First Nations, plus she spent much time at the Pueblo, growing up here in Taos.

Ashley Rolshoven also happens to be a descendent of one of the Taos Society of Artists’ early members (Julius Rolshoven) and is the stepdaughter of Robert Parsons. With her innate eye for fine art, and mentoring from Parsons, Rolshoven, together with Davison Koenig, has played a big role in Maggiori’s “Taos Period.”

In the fall of 2020 a virtual show of his work was held at Parsons and sold out fast. Part of the proceeds was gifted to the aforementioned Taos Day School’s program.

Maggiori was also for a time, the artist in residence at the Couse Foundation, where he painted in the Sharp studio while his own was being completed.

I asked whether the ghosts bothered him.

“I heard them/him every day,” he exclaimed. “There is totally a presence there.”

Painting in the space that had claimed his heart upon first sight, was a dream come true for the artist, who studied at the Academie Julien, a hundred years after his predecessors who then came to Taos. Like them, he brings classical training to the mythical light and landscape of the West, in turn interpreting it now, during this time, a century after they “discovered” it.

His trajectory in the Southwestern art world has been nothing short of stunning; after visiting Oklahoma with his wife, a chance visit to a museum show of Walter Ufer’s work gave him pause. After doing a little research, he decided there was a niche for him within the genre of Southwest art. A visit to Taos, and the Couse Foundation, and his mind was made up. He began to paint the West in earnest.

“A romanticized West,” I noted.

“Yes,” he responded, “romantic and very distinctive – I was already painting cowboys,” he said, “and initially I was drawn to them because of the clothes they wore, the fashion.”

I noted that he himself occasionally dressed as if he were from that period in time, when the West was won and mentioned that several young people have recently relocated here, recognizable by their mode of dress; almost in costume for a Western movie.

“Western fashion seems to cycle in and out of style,” he said, “but I think the current appeal for places like Taos happened during the lockdown on both coasts.”

“People looking at my Instagram for example (his Instagram account is a huge part of his brand), while stuck in a tiny apartment in the city, see these wide-open spaces and big skies, and they are already working remotely, so why not there?”

I recall after the first lockdown, one of my daughters said she’d noticed an “infestation of hipsters” in town. She was right, it was as if whole blocks of Silver Lake and Williamsburg had relocated by way of the Universal Back Lot’s wardrobe.

I looked up at the huge buffalo hide stretched on the western wall of Maggiori’s studio, and thought about the long, historical connection between the French and the Americans, not least of which is Lady Liberty herself. A French trapper could indeed have been the source of the hide, or one just like it.

The exchange of ideas continues into this time, with Maggiori signaling freedom of sorts with these pandemic paintings made in Taos; freedom from lockdowns and the urban paranoia that comes from living one on top of another. These vast and open landscapes, peopled by Black cowboys and Pueblo tribesmen, are a stark contrast to those concrete canyons and deserted boulevards, and yet as comfortably diverse. Why not decamp to Taos, indeed?

Maggiori’s Instagram account is hot; the painter is a rock star, and in fact, that is what he aspired to be as a kid, he told me early on in our interview but has accomplished so much more. He is arguably one of the top five contemporary Western artists; in demand by collectors all over the world. His interpretation of the Western landscape is both timeless and modern all at once.

His leap of faith taken after that encounter with Ufer’s work in Oklahoma had put him on another path to fame of another kind. It seems Maggiori has the Midas Touch.

“Not as a filmmaker,” he laughed, which is what he came to L.A, to be. “I had big dreams,” he said. A polymath, Maggiori was a successful rock musician and videographer prior to his decision to paint exclusively.

Instead, he met his wife, fellow artist Petecia Lefawnhawk, and fell in love. Lefawnhawk, who is from Arizona, introduced him to the West. They moved here from Los Angeles with their 2-year-old daughter and opened a store called People of the Valley, in Cabot Plaza. Lefawnhawk who is also a fashion designer keeps a studio behind the boutique.

“It took a while to get here,” Maggiori recalled, “We both had a lot going on in L.A., but after visiting the Couse-Sharp site on a trip here, we always had it in mind, like – ‘wouldn’t it be cool to live here one day?’”

The pandemic made it possible, along with the support of the formidable team of Rolshoven and Koenig in place.

Since relocating, Maggiori has been even more deeply immersed in his research of the history and culture of the region and has been using period textiles and objects from the Couse-Sharp Historic Site and Tres Estrellas Gallery, in his paintings. He’s also worked closely with models from Taos Pueblo, including the jeweler Lyle Wright.

His interest in expressing the diversity of the West led to him donate a painting of Black cowboys to the Briscoe Museum in San Antonio, thereby ensuring an historically underrepresented community would be finally acknowledged. Paying it forward seems to be integral to the way Maggiori approaches his work.

Currently, Maggiori is getting ready for a few actual exhibitions, including a solo show – Mark Maggiori: Taos Pueblo Portraits, which opens Oct. 2 as the inaugural show in The Lunder Research Center at the Couse-Sharp Historic Site. He has also been working with CSHS archives – using original Couse contact prints as inspiration for a new body of work.

“It’s as if he’s stepping into Couse’s actual shoes,” Koenig explained. “It’s an extraordinary opportunity to bring these photographs to light in a contemporary manner.” Koenig has expertly steered the Couse-Sharp expansion so it is positioned to be one of the most important archival libraries of its kind. His quiet influence on the artist’s direction is unmistakable.

“The Taos Pueblo portraits will be a bit looser,” Maggiori said, “more impressionistic.”

“And small, they are small pieces,” he added.

What’s next for this contemporary master?

“I’m of Italian heritage,” he told me. “My grandparents emigrated, but ended up in France and not America – so I’m French with an American Dream,” he quipped, “but I would like to explore those villages they left behind in Italy, to paint them as they were then, before the wave of emigration at the beginning of the 20th Century.”

Traveling back in time is thematic in the painter’s oeuvre, it appears, with a focus on the tragedy of cultural heritage dying out with consumerism and fast-everything. Yet he and his work are very current; pop-cultural influences apparent in his bold gesture and highly saturated, technicolor canvases. A contradiction in terms, much like the times we live in, Maggiori straddles two worlds – one informed by technology and the future, the other by nostalgia for a more innocent time.

He looked out at The Mountain in the distance, before turning back to look at me.

“But right now I’m here,” he said as he adjusted the small painting on his easel.

His wife came in to let him know she was home after taking her mother to see the Gorge Bridge. Clearly, the couple had guests, which made little windows of time all the more precious. The afternoon light beckoned. It was time to take my leave and let the painter paint.

“May I take a photo?” I asked.

“I need a hat,” he said, laughing like a true member of the Insta Generation, putting one on as I snapped away on Rolshoven’s phone.

To discover more about Mark Maggiori visit him on the web at markmaggiori.com or on Instagram @markmaggiori.

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