David John was born in 1963 and raised just east of the Hopi Mesas at Keams Canyon, Arizona. As a young boy, he was close to his grandfather, who was a Navajo Medicine Man and revered by the Navajo people. His grandfather shared stories of the Navajo Creation with David and trained him to help perform ceremonies and gather materials for them.
David’s connection with his grandfather led him to depict the Navajo connection to the world through painting that featured the Yeibichai, embodiments of the Navajo Deities. The Yeibichai are most often seen as dancers, people taking on the persona of the Gods, in healing ceremonies. These nine-day Ceremonies are held after the first frost in the fall and the Yeibichai dance in the evening.
But the actual Yeibichai are also believed to exist in spirit form. Many of David John’s paintings reflect that belief.
David also wanted to create something different from the paintings he is so well known for and began to make ceramic Yeibichai masks which he decorates with traditional Navajo and rock art designs.
Honoring his grandfather is one on his motivations as he worries that the young people are losing that spiritual connection he values so much as being an essential part of Navajo life. He stresses that his work reflects his own visions of the spirituality.
We’ve known David for over twenty years, and it has been fun watching him win award after award at Santa Fe, Gallup, Flagstaff, and the Eight Northern Pueblo Show. He’s the only Native painter that I know of who won a Pulitzer, or at least part of one! He did the painting that was chosen as the poster image for the 1990 Census and the poster received the Pulitzer for marketing.
His education background includes two years at the Institute of American Indian Art, some time at BYU and a Fine Arts Degree from The University of Southern Utah.
He and his wife now live in Kayenta, Arizona.They just delivered a beautiful collection of his ceramic masks that we have been waiting to receive. I hope you like them as much as we do.