The Western Scene: JD Challenger and Nicholas Coleman
Manitou Galleries is proud to present The Western Scene, with new works from JD Challenger and Nicholas Coleman.
Perhaps there is not a landscape on Earth that is imbued with as much mystery, beauty and history as the American West. The West is an enigma; full of dramatic vistas, shifting light, distant horizons and wide open spaces. Wherever one travels, whether it is the prairies of Wyoming, the mountains of Colorado, the canyon lands of Utah or the historic pueblos of New Mexico, one can have a glimpse of what the land once was and how it is changing.
JD Challenger and Nicholas Coleman are two artists who tell the story of the American West by painting the landscape and the Native people who call it home.
While growing up in Oklahoma, Challenger was especially close to his "step"-grandfather, a Chocktaw man, who first introduced the young JD to the culture and spirit of the Native American people. It was this relationship that would profoundly influence the direction of his life.
Privately, he painted his many Native American friends, learning from the stories they shared with him as he sketched. Inspired by the closeness he had felt with Native people since childhood, Challenger began working even more seriously on his paintings and sketches of Native Americans.
Working in acrylics, oil and watercolor, his style began to emerge. Upon witnessing a Ghost Dance reenactment, he was compelled to face what he felt in his heart. "As I stood watching the dancing, hearing the sounds, experiencing the ceremony as it had been done so many years before, I knew what I needed to paint...nothing had ever been clearer. I realized that the knowledge and the experiences of these people had to be preserved. Their stories, their history, not the white man’s version, their version had to be told."
He was still reluctant to have the work seen by the public for fear of offending the very people he so admired. His wife encouraged him to show the finished paintings to his closest Native American friends and to ask them for their feelings about him painting their people. When he finally did so, he received their blessings. A Kiowa holy man told him "There needs to be messengers; the creator chooses his own messengers. They take many forms. You are a messenger; your path is to tell the stories of the Native people to those who do not know what has happened in the past or what is still happening today. You make them see who we are, that we are real living human beings and that we are still here."
Nicholas Coleman was born in Provo, Utah. Brought up in an artistic home, Coleman has been painting and drawing for as long as he can remember. Coleman has found much of his artistic inspiration in his travels and his love of the outdoors. In his own words he wants to "preserve the heritage of the American West." Coleman uses a traditional academic approach in his painting, however he was never formally trained. He looks to the masters to inspire and guide his own path. His work his firmly rooted in Realism, however there are always moments of spontaneity that create a slight impressionistic feel. Coleman endeavors to create a connection between his paintings and the observer by invoking a mood that the viewer can be absorbed by.
The figure in the landscape is a consistent theme in Coleman's paintings. The human figures are nearly always present in his paintings, however they are almost always dwarfed by the vastness of the landscape. Despite this, there is a strong connection, rather a relationship between the figures and the landscape that they inhabit. Coleman is an excellent painter of atmosphere and light. His ability to create spaciousness and atmospheric light in his paintings remind one of the paintings of the Dutch Masters, Ruisdael and Cuyp.