I am Comanche from Lawton Oklahoma. I am the great-great grandson of Chief Quanah Parker, on my mother LaNora Parker Burgess’ side of the family. My father, Ronald Burgess, is also former chief of the Comanche tribe. I have one younger brother, Quanah Parker Burgess, who is also an artist.
Throughout my life I have traveled around the country with my family. I have lived in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Poplar, Montana; Phoenix, Arizona; and Santa Fe, New Mexico. We traveled a lot while my parents were working on their degrees. Many opportunities allowed us to see and experience much of the country and all the different kinds of people. That is what my parents wanted to give to my brother and me to expand our thinking.
I have always been around art. My dad went to school for art and education and has always painted and drawn. My maternal grandfather, Simmons Parker, was an artist, as was my maternal grandmother, Ina Parker, a quilt maker of her own designs. My great-grandmother, Daisy Tachaco, who raised my father, was an accomplished bead worker despite being blind. With all this art and all these artists around me, I had no choice but to pursue art. It was in my blood.
In 1989, after a year at the University of Oklahoma, I decided to move to New Mexico, where I stumbled upon the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) in Santa Fe. I could draw and had painted a bit. I was pretty good and, because of my family, more advanced than most in my classes. At IAIA my art really took off. I had a good time and learned a lot about Native art and how the traditional forms had evolved into more contemporary styles. This is what really grabbed my attention. I had already known quite a bit about traditional style. I grew up knowing people like Doc Tate Nevaquaya, Rance Hood, Allen Houser, and reading about Oklahoma artists like Woody Crumbo and Kiowa 5. I liked the idea of modern Indians; after all that’s who I am. I loved the old style, but it seemed so distant to me. To this day I enjoy painting old portraits and traditional subjects, but in my own style. In a way, when I paint them the subjects speak to me and I get to know them. After looking at them over and over for hours, how can I not receive something from them? My painting is a way of saying thank you to them for all of their sacrifices.
In 1991, I graduated from IAIA with an Associate in Fine Arts degree. I then went on to the University of New Mexico. I found myself questioning whether art was the way to go. Could I make a living at it? I knew some people did, but they always seemed the exception to the rule. I continued on with my degree with an emphasis in both studio art and native art history.
I began work at a bingo hall, soon to be a casino. This is when I started to drift away from art. I got promoted and made my way into management. It was pretty cool and the money was really nice; it felt good not to be a broke college student any more. From 1991 to 1996, I worked in the casino. My work schedule left no time for school and definitely no time for art. I missed the art, but soon learned to live without it. I was successful and making a good living.
In 1996, I decided the casino was not for me and I left. I needed a new start so I moved back to Oklahoma. I got back in touch with my people and family. I needed to get back to my art. It was 1997, and I hadn’t worked on any art for years. I enrolled at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma (USAO) to work on my B.F.A. There I started taking classes again and getting back into the flow. Art was back in my life.
I met my wife, Danielle, at USAO. She is also an artist and is very supportive of my art. After graduation in 1999, we were married and moved back to Santa Fe. I began painting and things started to work out. I started to get into shows and to sell my paintings again. My art opened doors. My first show was at Red Earth in Oklahoma City. In 2000, my brother and I were asked to be in a show in Holland, and from there the show traveled to Belgium and Germany.
I know now that this is where I need to be in my life. I have come full circle and my passion for painting is alive in my soul again. I have started writing music and poetry too. In July 2001, I put out a CD of my flute music.