J.D. Challenger, Ride the Clouds (1997),
J.D. Challenger is that rare kind of artist who paints outside his own traditional culture. With a focus on the historical period when the West was "settled", Challenger has, since he was a child, created his own portraits of Native Americans that are part-documentary and part a synthesis of symbolic imagery from different tribes.
By the time he was married and settled in Taos, New Mexico as a landscape painter, Challenger had come face-to-face with his mission. As he tells it, one day he received blessings from a holy man to become one of The People and to begin telling their stories openly. Since that time, he has painted and sculpted prolifically in a beautifully-rendered realistic style. His content and themes are appropriated from a number of Native American heritages and beliefs.
As a result of the cost of his original artwork, his output today is mainly in the form of hand-pulled serigraphs in editions of up to 400. His messages are sociopolitical and moral: in main, a testamonial to the transgressions of Anglo-Americans during the late 1880s who attempted to destroy the cultures of Native Americans. Challenger has even adopted the dress and long hair of a turn-of-the-century frontiersman. He is as colourful as the Native American men who come as models to his studio, bringing "their own regalia" of costumes and props.
© Mia Johnson