David Chethlahe Paladin (1926-1984) is an influential artist in terms of his contributions to the development of contemporary Native American art. Born to a Navajo mother and an Anglo father, Paladin was raised in the Navajo and Pueblo traditions, which left a lasting effect upon his art. An incorrigible runaway, a stowaway, a secret agent, a WW II prison camp survivor, Paladin's life story sounds more like fiction than fact.
Although he resisted art teachers like Dorothy Dunn in the early days at the Santa Fe Indian School, he always knew he wanted to be an artist. As a student at the Chicago Art Institute he met Marc Chagall, who encouraged him to draw upon his native heritage as the source of inspiration for his paintings. This provided the impetus and direction for Paladin’s career in art. Other artists who influenced his work were Kandinsky, Picasso, Mark Tobey and Morris Graves.
Paladin explains his art signature, “The name I was given was "Chethlahe" which is Navajo for Little-Turtle-Who-Cries-in-the-Night. I was born prematurely so I was too small for the cradle board they placed me in. I would disappear from sight as I slid down to the bottom of the cradle board and then I would let out a scream until someone would pull me out. I guess I must have reminded my family of a turtle which hides its head in its shell. I have chosen to use that name as the signature on my art.”
Over the years the inspirational sources for Paladin’s work became increasingly diverse. His associations with indigenous people led to his education as a shaman by the Huichols and Tarahumaras of Mexico, the Pueblo Indians, and by the Australian Aboriginals. The rich belief systems they shared with him provided the basis for his visionary art. There is more about his history as an American Indian artist and as a shamanic artist in the articles provided on the Publications tab and the drop down Painting the Dream tab.
The list of David Paladin’s exhibits since the 1960's fills several pages. He executed a wide variety of commissions, including murals, tapestries, posters and cards. His oils, acrylics, sand paintings, lithographs and experimental media works are represented worldwide in government, corporate, museum and private collections.