David Johns

"My creations on paper or canvas do not come from a place of preconception. They come from the innermost chambers of my soul."


Price range: $2,900 to $17,000


"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

As a child David Johns viewed the world through the eyes of an artist. He sketched hogans, horses, sheep and landscapes – every part of life that surrounded him on the vast Navajo Reservation. As he grew older, Johns experimented with various mediums and subject matter. It was a high school art instructor who encouraged him to try portraiture, a genre in which he would professionally excel. By combining western education and art training with Indian philosophy and traditional Navajo teaching David Johns created a style of his own. He earned a BFA from Northern Arizona University's School of Fine Arts, and was awarded an honorary Doctorate Degree from the university in 1997.

For over four decades David Johns painted the Native American portraits for which he is well known. But an interesting evolution was also underway: the backgrounds of these portraits 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. 

In 1987 an all-Indian art exhibition in Helsinki, Finland successfully brought the works of David Johns to European art collectors. The late 1980s also brought a remarkable project to David Johns: the commission to paint a mural onto the 1600 square foot domed ceiling of the Concord Place in Phoenix, a project that, from research to sketches to execution (atop a 50-foot scaffold), would consume 2 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 before it traveled to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland and to Grenoble, France. Works by David Johns continue to be collected both nationally and internationally and exhibited in museum exhibitions such as “Six Navajo Masters” at the Booth Western Art Museum in 2019.

Artist’s 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