The late Jd Challenger was born in Oklahoma with a creative fire that first began to smolder when he was a young child, becoming a wildfire as he reached his teens. After moving to the Southwest, he enjoyed success as an artist painting landscapes. Privately, Jd continued to draw and paint as he started to learn about Native Americans. He was reluctant to show his paintings in public for fear of offending a people he greatly admired. Working in oils and acrylics on canvas, as well as with watercolor, his style continued to emerge and his passion grew.
While growing up in Oklahoma, Challenger was especially close to his “step – grandfather,” a full blood Chocktaw, 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. Upon witnessing a Ghost Dance ceremony being filmed for a movie, he 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.”
His wife, Denise, encouraged him to show his artwork to his Native American friends, one of whom was a holy man. When Challenger finally showed 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.” He took his role seriously, but modestly declined credit for his remarkable gifts. “The thing I do best is paint. I prefer to look at it as ‘not me’ doing it,” Challenger said. “I’m just the instrument . . . The Creator, the brush, the paint, and then me.”
Some of Challenger’s most recognizable art pieces revealed the history and events leading up to and including the misunderstood “Ghost Dance” period, which has its beginnings with the Paiute “prophet” Wovoka and spread quickly through the Plains tribes and beyond. Challenger’s work focused on the history and significance of these ceremonies, portraying the spirituality of their deeply- held beliefs.
Jd passed away in September of 2023. He painted the story of a people rich in heritage and traditions; stories sometimes poignant and often angry, but always powerful and demanding to be told. Each portrait spoke its own truth, and Jd Challenger just happened to be the vessel that painted the truth.
Exposures International Gallery of Fine Art is honored to be the exclusive gallery representing Jd Challenger’s phenomenal paintings and sculptures.