by Michael Lancaster ("The Banksy of Hotel Room Art" is a moniker given by artists to Terrell Powell)
I first met Terrell Powell aka "T Bang" in my gallery in 2019. He walked in with his wife Pat and seemed somewhat like a totally happy and excited child. His great thrill - being an artist. I was a bit overwhelmed and putting on airs as if, [this serious gallerist] knew something about art. After showing me an image of his art on a postcard I told him I would share it with my wife. The image ended up where many art approaches do, in a shelf of cards and postcards. Life slowly moved into early 2020 pre pandemic.
The season started off soft but normal as January and February are often slow. Barbara and I had searched the 2019 season for outdoor sculpture and had found a little 'here and there art' to be background in the gardens. None of it was really selling. So, we returned to that card from artist Terrell Powell and wrote him a note. He stopped by with samples and we tried a few large sculptures in the garden. As the pandemic became a scary story we slowly went into lockdown and I left a note on the door: Open by appointment and our phone number. As summer came on and we were allowed to be open, we tried a few weekends but there was not enough business and we closed.
'This was the single largest purchase at our gallery to date. The relationship with Terrell Powell was on.'
It was a lovely August morning and I was working in my garden. I missed a call but when taking a break I decided to listen to voice messages. There was a couple, interested in two of Terrell's large sculptures. I did not know the exact price without being in the gallery but gave them a range and they were fine with the two totaling somewhere in 5 figures. We agreed to meet the next morning. With the pandemic I was very comfortable in my home world and did not think much of the upcoming meeting, but imagined it was esoterically good to go through the motions. The next morning we met and they loved the two tall sculptures and wanted to see more inside. By the end of a half hour they had bought two of Terrell's sculptures, one of my ceramic industrial series and a large bird nest and egg by Nicasio Romero. This was the single largest purchase at our gallery to date. The relationship with Terrell Powell was on. We did not reopen until April of 2021.
'I decided the story was so much fun that I named the show "The T Bang Show." "
Now that Terrell and his art was 'tested', We opened the gates to try a myriad of different styles of his art. It ranges from contemporary petroglyph inspired steel and resin sculptures, to folk birds on wood and shaman petroglyph paintings. That's pretty much everything. It sold. It sold and it sold! So, I proposed a show for 2022, and he agreed. It was a complex idea and our primary show space consists of about 300 sq. ft with an extra wall space when needed of about 50 sq. ft. If that wasn't enough, he began telling me something about some guerrilla art work he was doing in hotel rooms. I wasn't quite getting it at first but slowly it dawned on me that he was altering the drab art of mid level hotels and signing them T Bang and leaving the art to surprise the hotel guests. I appreciate many kinds of visual art and art that has an impact always intrigues me, but I generally sell art that is upbeat and happy. I want art that uplifts visitors and collectors. Suddenly it was here where 'outlaw art' meets happy art that I could connect the dots and reach an audience. This was a sort of crossroads. I decided the story was so much fun that I named the show "The T Bang Show." Amongst a regular display of paintings and sculptures I put three T Bang pieces out. Two hung on the wall while a third much larger one sat on a bench leaning against the wall. I liked it like that and we gave it a try. Hanging shows is organic and Barbara and I usually enter the task with one goal in mind - get it hung!
It was a beautiful opening, well attended, and we sold a number of smaller pieces, which for a good opening was typical. Over the next weeks we sold more and works from other rooms and outdoors. Certainly we were happy with the results and I believe Terrell was happy too. There was some interest in the T Bang pieces but I was a bit tongue tied to explain it. More often than not people thought that I was telling them that he was stealing hotel art and then painting on it. Now, I am a story teller, writer, screenwriter, and filmmaker. I talk a lot to people who come into Calliope and Barbara has told me I have the 'gift of gab.' That being said it often makes me wonder,' do I know when to just shut up and let people think and comprehend the art? If I say too much do I drive them away?' These are serious questions and I am frequently checking myself.
'Within seconds Terrell aka T Bang walked through the door into the gallery.'
There were two weeks left in the show and I had not sold a T Bang yet. I was getting better at explaining it. One afternoon a woman was looking at his art and enjoyed his horse imagery and set her eyes on the larger T Bang piece which was a hotel art background of a really dull West Texas landscape. No offense to my collectors from Texas. Terrell had painted a polkadot donkey into the scene and there was a bird on its head and it seemed to me another bird on the ground was talking to the donkey. I told her the story as she sat down on the bench to relax a bit. I'd sure like to meet this T Bang," she said as her interest seemed to grow in the painting. Within seconds Terrell, aka T Bang, walked through the door into the gallery. "Okay," I responded, stunned, "here he is." Within ten minutes she bought that T Bang painting. The things that happen at the door or walk through my door are often mystical. The image shown here is how the painting looked at that instance, on the bench, reflections of shaman petroglyph art in the glass and, the two birds seemed to be part of a spirit joke, poking fun of our rigidity about art, what art should be and why we should just flat out accept it as it is.
I've never been one to question coincidence, fortuitous happenings, or even mystical moments. This was just a bit much at the time, but what would follow was even more amazing. This all happened around late May or early June 2022. Surprise - surprise, there was the story on the front page of the Wall Street Journal on October 16, of 2022. I guess we were all T Banged!
"Dude, we are gonna be on NBC Nightly News!"
Now, I have a bit of an ego, so I was not pleased that the full page article did not mention me or my gallery by name, but still I was happy overall that there was some coverage. A few days later I got a call from T Bang (note "T Bang" and not Terrell). He was talking so fast with such excitement that I had to say "wait - slow down." Say it again, "Dude, we are gonna be on NBC Nightly News!" By the time the interview happened it was around Thanksgiving.
Hard for me to believe at first as the camera crew kept pushing the dates back, but there it was - happening in his studio and yes then, briefly, in Calliope: enough for Gadi Schwartz to ask me the going price of [then] two that I sold and the fact that my name and gallery flashed across the screen.
To me it's all about risks. I am taking a risk in many of life's arena's from filmmaking to being a gallerist. No other gallery would show T Bang as anyone other than Terrell Powell. I had a feeling, in my gut, one that said "Do this." I did. My reward: I (Calliope) exclusively represent the T Bang collection. There are very few available and some 30-50 T Bang artworks exists in Hotels across the United States. There are even a few on a Cruise ship! Meanwhile T Bang strives to leave his mark in all 50 states.
To see the complete interview from NBC Nightly News, click here.
Michael Lancaster is the Great Grandson of Circus Magnate Charles Ringling. He is married to sculptor I Painter Barbara Harnack and together they own Calliope Fine Art & Fine Craft in Madrid, New Mexico. Lancaster is currently in development and nearing production on his first feature film INK, an elevated sci-fi horror action film which he has co-written with director I producer Michael Lovan.
If you would like to inquire about the availability of T Bang art contact Michael at email@example.com or 505-660-9169.