Friday Evening, November 3, 2017, 5-8 pm
Artist Talk, 6:30 pm
Lanning Gallery and Turquoise Tortoise Gallery in Sedona, Arizona launch a major joint exhibition to celebrate the works of acclaimed artist David Johns and unveil his latest paintings – both figurative and abstract. The two galleries are located across from each other at Hozho, in the heart of Sedona’s Gallery District. David Johns gives an Artist Talk at each gallery, one at 6:00, the other at 6:30 that evening. (read more below)
The acclaimed Navajo painter, a spiritual leader in his tribe, has been an internationally celebrated artist for decades: A 1987 all-Indian exhibition in Helsinki, Finland brought the work of David Johns to European art collectors. Johns was then commissioned to paint the 1600 square foot domed ceiling of the Concord Place building in Phoenix, a project that consumed two years of his life; the result, an intricate portrayal of Native American history, is a breathtaking masterwork. In 1999 a one-man exhibition for David Johns opened on the French Riviera; this exhibition traveled to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland and on to Grenoble, France. For decades Lanning Gallery in Sedona has represented the abstract paintings of David Johns and Turquoise Tortoise Gallery has represented his portrait work for even longer. Both galleries are proud to offer his latest paintings.
Raised by his grandmother on the vast Navajo Reservation, David Johns was taught by her that we are all connected through nature, through stories and prayers and songs. This sense of connection to the place where they lived, surrounded by the four mountains sacred to the Diné, is captured in his new painting, “Dinétah.” Dinétah literally translates as “among the people” and refers to the land bordered in each cardinal direction by the sacred mountains.
David Johns has spent a great deal of time this past year out on Black Mesa, south of Kayenta and high in pine covered hills. The construction of a small house and a traditional male hogan, built with large logs, has occupied him, as have plans for a larger 8-sided female hogan, to be made from adobe blocks, which will measure 33 feet across. Time in the hills also inspired the ever-present artist’s nature in David Johns: Each morning bluebirds greeted him with songs, with flashes of color and reminders of their role as messengers according to the beliefs of the Diné. “Awakening of Bluebirds,” one of his newest paintings, captures this pure essence.
“In Reliance,” another new abstract painting by David Johns, captures the core understanding that we all rely on many things in nature, that we live on this land in reliance of all the elements the creator also places here: the animals, water, corn that we grow with our prayers from desert soils. It is all here, intertwined with our very existence.
For David Johns, creation springs from a bare canvas with little preconceived ideas. Revealing the unrevealed is his process. Even color, for David Johns, becomes more than a medium to create light, form and emotion; Diné symbolism informs each choice: In Navajo culture, white, blue, yellow, and black are the four “original” colors and represent the four cardinal directions, time of day, states of mind, paths of life, the four seasons, and more. For David Johns, being a Navajo, being a spiritual being, is always the core of who he is.
The portraits that David Johns has created for even longer than he has painted his abstracts, follow strict cultural “rules.” The faces portrayed on canvas by David Johns are never real people, instead they are drawn from his artist’s imagination and strong ties to his fellow Diné. “Diné Hosteen,” a painting that will be featured in this new exhibition, is a dramatically sized intense portrait that, to David Johns, portrays all that it is to be a Navajo man.
“David Johns: Spirit of Creation” runs through Sunday, November 12th.
View additional works by David Johns here.
View figurative works at Turquoise Tortoise Gallery by David Johns here.