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  • Writer's pictureShea Stanfield

The Legend Captures Our Hearts

“We will be known forever by the tracks we leave.”  Dakota Sioux The history, legend, and myth of the American West are single strands woven to form a uniquely durable rope lassoing the period between 1830-1912 into our collective American consciousness. The “mythology” of this unique and troubled period springs to life today in Prescott artist John Coleman's paintings and bronze sculptures. John’s creations envision a wild interpretive story in accurate and stunning detail. Here, the lives of our Native American ancestry come to form as vividly as our brilliant Western horizons.

The granite foundation beneath John’s award-winning body of work is the dedicated and determined study of American history and art, a path he strayed upon during high school. Seldom the focused student of academics during that time, John was a hard worker, highly adaptable, and a quick study of all subjects, capturing his interest and imagination. His high school art teacher recognized John’s exceptional gift for detailed illustrative renderings and encouraged his artistic pursuits. John took the encouragement to heart and landed a job as an illustrator, soon after leaving school, for a hairstylist in California who had a syndicated column. This brought him to the notice of Butler Publications, who hired him as a technical illustrator for their company. By age 19, John married Sue, his high school sweetheart, and the two of them went on to develop a successful construction and real estate business in Parker and Prescott, Arizona. They saw it as "a practical matter of making a living while raising their family.”

John and Sue’s hard work paid off; by 1994, with their two daughters well on their way and resources from their business, John turned his attention to rediscovering, once again, his “purpose” in making art. At the time, John thought he would be returning to the world of an illustrator, but the "Great Spirit" had other plans. Always the observer and a curious student, John saw a television program where an artist made wall sculptures. He figured sculpture was something he could do as well, but his focus would be Native American images to tell a unique and compelling story. Not long after, John was in the foundry with his first creations, breathing life into the history, myth, and legend of the first people of the West.

Ten years after pursuing his artistic journey full-time, the late Ray Swanson, Cowboy Artist and past Cowboy Artists of America President, visited John’s studio in Prescott, Arizona. John had already made a name for himself as an illustrator, painter, and sculptor, represented by Legacy Gallery in Scottsdale, Arizona, and Jackson Hole, Wyoming. He was also a member of the National Sculpture Society of New York City (where he is now a Fellow Member). Ray called John’s hand and raised him one, encouraging him to apply for membership to the Cowboy Artists of America (CAA). Gaining membership to the CAA was an enormous honor, even more so when John was accepted on the "first ballot” in 2001.

Today, John Coleman is one of our foremost "image makers" of the American West. His work is collected both nationally and internationally. In 2012, John won the Anne Marion Best of Show Award and Gold Medal Award for sculpture for 1876, Gall, Sitting Bull, and Crazy Horse. At the 2013 Cowboy Artists of America Show, John earned a Silver Medal for Drawing and Other Media. Yes, John maintained his illustrator roots; he works in charcoal, graphite, and oils as well.

He is incredibly proud to have received the James Earle Fraser Sculpture Award and the Jackie L. Coles Buyers' Choice Award for his monumental sculpture, Honeymoon at Crow Fair, which was purchased for their permanent collection by the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The sculpture also resides in the lobby of the Western Spirit: Scottsdale's Museum of the West. John's work Visions of Change is in the permanent collection at the Tucson Museum of Art, and the sculpture Addih-Hiddisch, Hidatsa Chief, is in the permanent collection at the Phoenix Art Museum. Most recently, the sculpture Warrior Spirit Crazy Horse has come to stand proudly in the lobby of Western Spirit in Scottsdale.

Today Collecting Stories: John Coleman Bronzes from the Collection of Frankie and Howard Alper is one of Westen's Spirit's most popular exhibits. The exhibit provides a unique opportunity to examine the work of John Coleman, the illustrator, painter, sculptor, and influential teacher. The work in charcoal, graphite, oil, and bronze is a fascinating journey as experienced by the first people of the American West, exploring the legend evoked by artist John Coleman’s most comprehensive collection. “Each piece tells a story in the three dimensional, a visual mythology written by my hands and spiritual imagination, somehow linking us to the past and bringing us to a greater understanding of our ancestors.” John Coleman

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