Show Preview | Challenger & Coleman

Santa Fe, NM
Manitou Galleries, November 7-21

J.D. Challenger, Spirit of the Fox, acrylic, 48 x 32.

J.D. Challenger, Spirit of the Fox, acrylic, 48 x 32.

This story was featured in the November 2014 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art November 2014 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story!

The Native American experience, both past and present, is the subject of Manitou Galleries’ show The Western Scene, which features paintings by Nicholas Coleman and J.D. Challenger. “Each [artist] shares his perceptions of Native culture and its impact on our psyche,” says gallery director Frank Rose. “We are pleased to be showing these two great artists together.” The show opens with an artists’ reception from 5 to 7:30 p.m. on November 7 and closes on November 21. On display are approximately 30 works that express the respect both artists feel for Native people and their cultures.

“I feel very blessed to be a part of the lives of the people I paint,” says Challenger, whose portraits are of Native Americans from Canada to Washington and from the Southwest to Florida. “I may have a direction I want to go in mind when models sit in front of me, but I always ask them what they want to see in the painting. When I start working I usually feel as if a higher energy is guiding me. My paintings are all about what the Native people want to say about their history and themselves.” Native Americans from many different tribes and pueblos seem to find their way to Challenger, either at his studio in Taos, NM, or when he’s on the road looking for new portraits to paint.

Among Challenger’s 15 or more acrylic works in the show are SPIRIT OF THE FOX and POWER OF THE BEAR, which contain more detail than his works of several years ago. “I’m pleased that people are noticing that my work has become more technical, but that didn’t happen overnight,” Challenger explains. “It’s been a long, slow process.”

Nicholas Coleman, Blackfeet Scout, oil, 12 x 9.

Nicholas Coleman, Blackfeet Scout, oil, 12 x 9.

While Challenger is known for his portraits, Coleman is recognized for his peaceful scenes of Native American life. Some of the more than a dozen works in this show reflect the tranquility of Indian encampments, while other paintings, such as scenes of buffalo hunts, are charged and action-oriented. “I keep a sketchbook of ideas, and for a long time, I’ve been thinking about making more action-filled, wild-and-woolly paintings,” Coleman says. “It’s just been a matter of having the time to do them. I’m having fun.”

Some of Coleman’s paintings portray imagined historical scenes. An avid student of history, Coleman continually watches documentaries and reads about life in the Northern Plains from the late 1800s through the early 1900s in order to glean new information about the Native American experience. “Even though many scenes are from that time period, I try to make my paintings timeless,” he explains. “I put my own experiences in my work. I live in Utah and constantly travel throughout the West. I’ve been to most of the places I paint. I rode horses and did a lot of hunting during childhood. I was fascinated by Native American warriors and the mystique of the West when I was a kid. I still am.” —Emily Van Cleve

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