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Van B. St. John Jr.

Hunkpati Dakota
(b. 1955)

Van B. St. John Jr.

Van B. St. John Jr. was born in 1955 and raised in Fort Thompson, South Dakota on the Crow Creek Sioux Reservation. After graduating in 1977from Crow Creek High School in Stephan, South Dakota, St. John served in the Navy and was stationed in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, for three years.

He attended Haskell Indian Junior College and Dakota Wesleyan University, where he earned a bachelor degree in art education. Since then, he has taught K-12 and college art classes for 19 years. In June 1997, Dakota Wesleyan University honored St. John by selecting him as their Alumnus of the Year.

As a professional artist, some of Van’s art shows include the Northern Plains Tribal Art Festival, Bismark Art Expo, Black Hills Art Expo, Center for Western Studies and Gift to Mother Earth. His work has also been featured in one-man shows, in places like the Dream Catcher Gallery near Chicago and the South Dakota Store in Chamberlain, South Dakota where he has been summer artist-in-residence for the past three years.

The artist first became interested in drawing the warrior and the horse at age nine. They are still his favorite subjects to draw and paint. His work is a combination of the past and the present, of the traditional and the contemporary. For St. John, art has always been a way of relaxation and accomplishment; now, it’s also a way of expressing his ideas in ways that are esthetically pleasing to him as well as the viewer.

His ideas are derived from the people he visits, what he sees and what he reads. His inspiration also comes from other artists, as well as from his inner drive to create. The compositional aspects (line and color) come from visualization in his mind. The outcomes sometimes vary from what he had originally envisioned but the concepts are there in one form or another.

St. John is ¾ Dakota Sioux and ¼ French, hence the surname. St. John’s Indian name, Elk Eagle, was given to him by his father.


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