JD Challenger is considered America’s leading painter of Native Americans. He was born in Oklahoma with a creative fire that began to smolder at a young age. JD Challenger learned color, shading, light and shadow from closely observing nature and drawing what he saw. Always fascinated by the culture and customs of the Native Americans in the area where he lived, the young JD Challenger absorbed their stories and traditions and soon considered them among his closest friends (Excerpt from the inside cover of JD Challenger’s Book “Ghost Dancing”).
After moving to Taos, New Mexico, JD Challenger enjoyed success as a landscape painter. Privately, JD Challenger continued to draw and paint as he learned about Native Americans. JD Challenger was reluctant to show his paintings in public for fear of offending the people he so greatly admired. Working in oils and acrylics on canvas, as well as watercolor, JD Challenger’s artistic style continually emerged and his passion grew.
Upon witnessing a Ghost Dance ceremony being filmed for a movie, JD Challenger came face to face with his mission in life. “As I stood there watching the chanting and the dancing, I knew what I wanted to paint… nothing had ever been clearer.” – JD Challenger. His wife, Denise, encouraged Challenger to show his artwork to his Native American friends, one of whom was a holy man. When JD Challenger did show his art to his friends, he received their blessing and was told, “There has to be a messenger and he doesn’t have to be one of our People. The Creator chooses His own messengers. Your path is to tell our story and educate people about the past and about what is still happening today.” JD Challenger takes his role seriously, but modestly declines credit for his remarkable gifts. “The thing I do best is paint. I prefer to look at it as ‘not me’ doing it,” JD Challenger says. “I’m just the instrument… The Creator, the brush, the paint, and then me.”
The art of JD Challenger teaches about the symbols and ceremonies of the Ghost Dance, a Native American religious movement that promised a new world of right green plains, bountiful wildlife and buffalo, the return of all ancestors from the world of the dead, and the end to Anglo rule. No other artist has explored this subject in more depth and with more authenticity than JD Challenger.
JD Challenger paints the story of a people rich in heritage and traditions; stories sometimes poignant, often angry… but always powerful and demanding to be told. Each portrait speaks its own truth. JD Challenger is the vessel that paints that truth.
Few artists generate excitement like JD Challenger. In the Southwest, his exhibitions are often sold out before the gallery doors open, and many of his paintings are purchased before they leave his easel. Across the nation, JD Challenger’s limited edition prints, fine art canvas reproductions, serigraphs, and bronze frequently sell out before they are released.