2017 Viola Award Nominee for Excellence in the Visual Arts

Flagstaff painter David Christiana presented the new solo exhibition, Portraits of Petrichor, at the Museum of Northern Arizona. The show opened March 11, 2016, and remained on view for several months. Alan Petersen served as curator.

Portraits of Petrichor features 30 works of art completed by the former Museum of Northern Arizona artist-in-residence. During his residency, Christiana set out to capture fragments and details of this unique landscape. Representing the artist’s intensive exploration of Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument and its surrounding area, the exhibition creates an intimate portrait of this volcanic wonderland through drawings as well as watercolor and oil paintings.

David Christiana, born in Huntington, New York, has illustrated more than twenty picture books for children and authored four for international publishers such as Farrar, Straus & Giroux; Harcourt Brace; Little, Brown; Henry Holt; and Scholastic. Reviews of his work have appeared in The New York Times Book Review, People Magazine, Publishers Weekly, etc. He currently teaches Illustration at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

Artist Statement

I begin lost. Less than lost. Completely absent – a chrysalis underground. I dig with swoops and turns as a shaman or priest might gesticulate summoning spirits. The tip of my pencil wags like a tongue. Once in a while an idea takes hold and pulls me out of the dirt. Content begins to form. My materials: egg yolk or oil, powdered pigment, a soft white clay-covered surface, pieces of wood (perhaps on fire), a sliver of graphite, all conspire to squeeze, as if through a pastry chef’s funnel, “a religion reassembled from fragments of our daily life.


I’m often at a loss for words: at my mother’s funeral I was one of the few who had nothing to say. She’d been so sick for so long.  She’d been my father’s obsession for years, decades actually, since she was struck down from polio, then post-polio, then a litany of other even more difficult conditions.  Each one providing even more contrast to her loveliness.  It was all so … see… no word I can think of.  Then it was dad.  “Men don’t die from prostate cancer they die with it” were my neighbor’s words.  He meant well.  What luck to have such a slow-growing cancer.  Although I’m not sure luck is the right word, now that its into his spine, legs out of order but full of pain, bed soars growing, getting rejected from the third facility. Sister caught the assistant lying about whether or when he’d turned him.

There is beauty in this world.  It’s sometimes difficult to believe.  And for me, words just don’t cut it.  Marks, on the other hand, lines, a form described, images carved out of the ether, somehow, sometimes do.

[1] John Updike’s essay on the Museum of Modern Art

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Artist’s Website

David Christiana – Visual Arts Winner