Michael Jackson's Personal Artist Shared Pop King's Vision

He last saw Jackson in 2005, when the singer moved to Bahrain and vowed never again to live on U.S. soil. Accustomed to lulls when Jackson was overseas or overextended, Nordahl resumed painting Apaches and presumed he'd be summoned once Jackson found a new home and showcase for his treasures.

The fate of Nordahl's Jackson paintings is in limbo, though they may be part of a touring exhibition of the singer's memorabilia proposed by the estate administrators. "I would like to see them in a Michael Jackson museum," Nordahl says. "That was always Michael's goal. He was very self-effacing, but he understood he was a music icon."

Nordahl, represented by Settlers West Galleries in Tucson and Sherwoods Spirit of America in Santa Fe, has returned to painting Apaches and other subjects.

Whether his extended hiatus from the public eye damaged his authority or reputation "is difficult to gauge," Dewey says. "I don't know if it furthered his career. An artist who does commissions for one patron often is just isolated unless the patron publishes or exhibits the work. David's always been independent, and he's never sought publicity."

And how many patrons are the King of Pop?

"We got to be such good friends that I forgot who I was hanging out with," Nordahl says. "Then he'd break into these dance moves, quick as lightning, and it would dawn on me: He's the best entertainer in the world."

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