Many years ago, John was the Artist-in-Residence at Red Cloud Indian School in Pine Ridge, South Dakota and during that time he was adopted (through the ceremony of Hunkapi) by the Swiftbird family of Wolf Creek. He was a young art student who had spent much time with the Aboriginal People of his native Australia, and was drawn to the many similarities of the Plains Indian imagery.
His sketch books became filled with drawings and reflections, and the first basic "shield paintings" lay waiting on these pages until 2015 when he began to think of honoring the people that he had worked with so many years before.
“When I first considered doing this series, I knew that I would have to be extremely sensitive of Native American values and responses to the work. It is very important to me that viewers know that I am not Native American…Nor am I pretending to be. I traveled back to South Dakota to ask how this work would be received if I produced it. I was told that as long as the images and symbols I use are accurate and respectful…then the work will be accepted. In the summer of 2016 I was invited to participate in an Artist Residency in Sedona, Arizona, and I spent the time researching ancient Pueblo images, mostly on pottery. These images had an enormous effect on the evolution of the shield series...and I have been busy refining and redesigning them since."
---John Rawlings ---Swiftbird
London-born and Australian-raised, John has been exposed to cultures all over the world. After graduating from the University of Guanajuato in San Miguel de Allende in Mexico, he taught college art & history classes for the next 35 years in the Western United States. In 2014 John was awarded the status of Professor Emeritus for his outstanding career in higher education. He has spent much time in Italy, has lived there twice for extended periods of time, and has lead over 15 tours/residencies to the country. In 2006, he received global recognition at the International Biennale in Egypt, where his art was displayed in the world-renowned exhibition. His paintings and sculptures communicate his connection to the land and his surroundings. By incorporating found objects with natural materials, he conveys a deep connection between his life and art.
John was named the 2014 Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT) Faculty Member of the Year for the North American Westen Region. John was one of only five Professors recognized with the ACCT award from more than 1,200 colleges in the United States and Canada. For the past twenty years he has been leading Art Programs in Italy, introducing hundreds to its wonders.
Fiskardo Shadows Series Exhibit: June 1, 2017