GATLINBURG – The arts and crafts community here mourns the death of Ross Markley, the artist who once owned the Turtle Hollow Gallery on Buckhorn Road.
Markley died on December 4, after a battle with a brain tumor. He was 78 years old.
He moved to the area in 1991, purchasing vacant land with the intention of becoming a full-time artist. He has become a staple in the community, exhibiting the work of other artists as well as selling his own, and a contributor to the Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts.
He sold the gallery a few years ago and moved to Florida to be closer to his son, Trevor. But until then, he worked continuously on the property.
âThey lived in a Winnebago until they built the other buildings,â Trevor said.
The first building initially served as Ross’s home, workshop, and gallery.
While he had had a 9 to 5 job for most of his life, both of his parents had been artists and he had never lost his own interest in the arts.
He was selling works at weekend exhibitions when he decided to move to Gatlinburg, an area he knew well from his family.
It didn’t take long for him to start working with other artists in the area and with Arrowmont, where he taught and took classes.
He also presented some of their artists in his gallery.
âWhat I enjoyed about Ross’s interaction with Arrowmont through Turtle Hollow was that he brought to light many of our artists, especially ceramics,â said Bill Griffith, agent for liaison and partnership at school.
Griffith has worked with Ross for decades.
As Ross worked on the property it became a highlight for himself, Griffith said.
âHe incorporated beautiful stones on the walls and large scale stone carvings which were really intriguing. It made you want to drive to the gallery because of that alone, the beautiful sculptures he created on site.
Ross worked with brass as well as stone, creating distinctive figurative works as well as others.
His abstract bear sculptures were popular sellers at Arrowmont auctions.
While taking classes to improve his art and teach them, he met many artists from the area, Griffith said.
In 2007, he also made a jury for a sculpture by the SociÃ©tÃ© Nationale des Beaux Arts and exhibited at the Louvre.
Eventually, health issues forced him to downsize some of the larger sculptures, but he continued to do smaller works after moving to Florida, his son said.
It was a remarkable career, given that he had spent much of his adult life working in sales before returning to the arts.
âIt’s certainly not traditional, but I was very proud not only of his work, but also of what he did to develop Turtle Hollow,â said Trevor.