Generations: Navajo Father/Daughter Duo, David K. John and Hadiibah John,
Exhibition at James Ratliff Gallery, Hillside Sedona, Sedona, Arizona, USA
Both artists are committed to storytelling, i.e., telling the story of Navajo culture. “This tradition can only be experienced,”
“I think it is important,” David says. A basic cycle of Navajo legends centers on the twin warriors and the culture’s ceremonies and dances recount the fatherless twins’ quest to find their father, Sun, through many tests, challenges and journeys toward self discovery. The artist continues, “Certain things I cannot paint or don’t talk about from our more sacred rites.”
Raised by his great grandfather, great grandmother and single mother, David K. John grew up hearing the stories and teachings of his homeland. David’s great grandfather was a medicine man so from childhood, David participated in seasonal rituals, healing ceremonies (sand paintings) and sacred events. In his art, John expresses his own interpretations of his childhood.
David has won many awards for his paintings and masks, including Intertribal Ceremonial in Gallup, Santa Fe Indian Market, and Annual Native American Art Show in Blanding, Utah. Particularly striking personally was his selection as 1990 Census Artist which availed him a trip to Washington, D.C., press conference, first opportunity to view the work of Picasso, Monet, and prompted his determination to paint away on his return home.
The James Ratliff Gallery has represented David K. John for more than 20 years. Besides worldwide individual collectors, David’s work is included in the Heard Museum, Phoenix, AZ, The Navajo Tribal Museum, Window Rock, AZ, The Institute of American Indian Arts, Santa Fe, The Eiteljorg Museum in Indianapolis, IN, and The Red Cloud Museum, Pine Ridge, SD.
Formal education was accented by full scholarship to the Institute of American Indian Arts from which he graduated with the award Outstanding Two-Dimensional Artist. Having then studied at Brigham Young University, David completed his Bachelor’s degree at Southern Utah University before returning to his Kearns Canyon, Arizona home.
David is proficient in media of oil, clay, acrylics and bronze; the James Ratliff Gallery April exhibit will feature acrylic paintings. Palettes of reds and browns for Mother Earth and blues for Father Sky simply set the backdrop for images that bring some viewers to tears. There is a sense of serenity, peace, wonder evoked by this work. It speaks in stillness. It transports timelessness.
Candidly, the artist admits: “I don’t really think about it . . . When I start painting, all these teachings come back. I paint more for the younger generation. They are observing the culture from their own contemporary perspectives . . .- All these ideas come back.”
David introduces his daughter: “Hadiibah means “the one that got away”, and Hadiibah was named in tribute to her great grandmother, Ahadiibah.” David and his wife wanted their daughter to have a traditional Navajo name. Since many traditional Navajo names pertain to war and warriors, the literal meaning of Hadiibah metaphorically also describes this young woman’s chosen life path.
Hadiibah celebrated her 18th birthday March 6 but has been sketching and painting since she was four years old. The internationally-
Like many teens, Hadiibah developed an interest in the Japanese technique of anime. However, Hadiibah intends to pursue an education in engineering. An applicant for the Gates Foundation grant through Monument Valley High School, Hadiibah plans to bring her expertise in technology back to her Navajo homeland once she completes engineering studies. In the meantime, Hadiibah is equally absorbed in her art. Already an award winner, Hadiibah won second place in the 2013 Santa Fe Indian Market (IXC: Category 3608 – Paintings). The James Ratliff Gallery exhibition marks her gallery debut although her work has previously been included in other Flagstaff, Arizona Navajo shows as well as Santa Fe’s Indian Market.
Hadiibah explains the work she will exhibit at the James Ratliff Gallery will focus on the “winter stories” of the twins. She has learned about these stories since she was a child and the Navajo Cultural Center celebrates this heritage in reenactments throughout the season for high school and younger children. Hadiibah explains: “Painting helps me express my emotions – anger and frustrations that I get when I go to school.”
For information about the exhibit and the artists, contact the James Ratliff Gallery: www.jamesratliffgallery.com, phone: 928-282-
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