David Johns, Native American (1948 - )

David Johns

For over four decades Diné (Navajo) artist David Johns has painted the Native American portraits for which he is well known. But an interesting evolution was also underway: the backgrounds of these portraits by David Johns were becoming increasingly abstracted and, roughly twenty-five years ago, these abstractions found that, within David Johns, the artist, they needed their own space. The resultant abstract paintings reveal even more the artist’s vision. "You don't see the songs or stories or prayers," David Johns explains, referring to the strong ties he holds for his native culture, "but you visualize what is happening." It is the essence of the experiences that make up the artist's past and present that David Johns seeks to capture on canvas; "it is the true kernel of what is visual," he states.

"David Johns is a seer, and he comes very honestly by that gift. In his remarkable artwork, he enables us to see as well. His gift becomes our gift. Here is the essential spirit of creation." ~ N. Scott Momaday, Pulitzer Prize winning author ~

"You can see all kinds of forms, lines and shapes; it's out there," David Johns says of his abstract work. "All you have to do is look around you." It is the intertwining of these outer elements with the inner elements of his emotions, mixed with traditional Diné philosophies that fuel the abstract paintings of David Johns.

In late 1987 David Johns began a prestigious special commission to paint a mural onto the enormous domed ceiling of Concord Place in Phoenix, AZ. From concept sketches to completion, the project would occupy three years of his life – much of it spent atop a fifty-foot scaffold. The result, an intricate portrayal of Native American history, is a breathtaking masterwork.
David Johns, who had earned a BFA from Northern Arizona University's School of Fine Arts, was awarded an honorary Doctorate Degree from the university in 1997.

Artist Statement
My Creations on paper or canvas do not come from a place of preconception. They come from the innermost chambers of my soul. The essence of what I am is a spiritual being. I am a Diné (Navajo) man of Tl'aashchi'í clan and born for the Kiyaa'áanii clan. Even as I write it, it feels like I am saying a prayer. Everything I am and do I hope comes from a place of harmony. If my mind, body and spirit are in balance then I can produce an image which reflects my truth. I hope my abstractions are ways for the observers to feel the essence of my inner self; not to get caught up in the distractions of outer appearances. It is not the form that touches our deepest longings but rather the story my images evoke in the viewer. This is the ultimate impact of my art .̶ David Johns

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