Sullivan Goss
Celebrating 34 Years
of 19th, 20th and 21stCentury American Art
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(b. 1947)

Contemporary American Realist

by Frank Goss and Jeremy Tessmer

Inspired by Old Master techniques, Nava often incorporates heavily shadowed scenes and traditional religious icons into many of his works. The artist is an exceptional draftsman and his reliance on drawing is evident in his figurative work that has helped to create a renewed interest in Realism.

Table Of Contents

Check Out
63" x 63"
Oil on canvas over board
A feature painting for the gallery's Scenes of American Labor Exhibition is Nava's portrait of the Check Out girl. The work uses a whimsical sense of art history, scale and precision to create a compelling portrait of our time and the young woman in red. She is seen here in her own milieu: the busy world of a video shop.

I. Biography

John Nava studied art at UC Santa Barbara under Howard Warshaw and did his graduate work in Florence, Italy. His work is found in numerous private, corporate and public collections throughout the United States, Europe and Japan including the National Museum of American Art in Washington D.C., the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) of Hawaii, the Triton Museum in San Jose, California and the Ventura County Museum of History and Art, Ventura, California.

His work is represented in such important publications as Post-Modernism: The New Classicism in Art and Architecture (Rizzoli, New York) by Charles Jencks who coined the term Post-Modernism and American Realism (Abrams, New York) and by Edward Lucie Smith, the first comprehensive history of realist painting in the United States. Nava has done large-scale public works including a 45’ wide mural for the Tokyo Grain Exchange in Tokyo, Japan and a 56’ wide fountain sculpture at 100 Brand Blvd. in Glendale, California. In 1998 he was commissioned by the Seattle Symphony to paint a life-size double portrait of Jack and Rebecca Benaroya for Benaroya Hall in downtown Seattle.

In 1999 Nava was commissioned by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles to create three major cycles of tapestries for the new Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. The primary cycle of 25 tapestries depict The Communion of Saints and comprise 136 over life-size saints from throughout history and from all parts of the world. The tapestries were specially woven in Belgium combining custom weaving craftsmanship and digital technology. Our Lady of the Angels, the largest Catholic cathedral in the United States, opened in September of 2002. In 2003 Nava’s tapestries for the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels won the National Interfaith Forum on Religion, Art and Architecture (IFRAA) Design Honor Award for Visual Art.

II. SGTV Video

"John Nava: Facing West"
Written and Narrated by Susan Bush
Produced by Nathan Vonk

For his 2009 exhibition at Sullivan Goss, Nava created a beautiful, new body of paintings that center on the artists new muse, Anadyomene—the ancient figure of love, beauty and fertility.

To watch this video click on the image to the left.

III. An Analysis of the Artist's Work

In John Nava's work, technical sophistication and a solid foundation in art history meet with a tremendous ambition for producing heroic works. In each of the artist's works, the choice to engage in technically difficult projects or to tackle complex ideas impresses at first glance. Where a lesser artist might hide behind his facility with oil paint, Nava chooses instead to make paintings that are also intellectually stimulating. He avoids a pedantic or preachy tone about the conflicts exposed in his paintings, giving his work the depth and complexity of real life.

IV. Education

  • 1973 M.F.A., Villa Schifanoia Graduate School of Fine Art, Florence, Italy
  • 1969 B.A., College of Creative Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara

    Solo Exhibitions (selected list)

  • 2017 JOHN NAVA: Painting & Tapestry, Sullivan Goss - An American Gallery, Santa Barbara, CA
  • 2009 "Facing West", Sullivan Goss - An American Gallery, Santa Barbara, CA
  • 2008 "The West Coast TEN", Sullivan Goss - An American Gallery, Santa Barbara, CA
  • 2008 Neo-Icons, Fresno Art Museum, CA
  • 2006 "Neo-Icons", Sullivan Goss - An American Gallery, Santa Barbara, CA
  • 2003 John Nava: Selected Works, (catalog) Ventura County Museum of History and Art, Ventura, CA
  • 2001 Communion of Saints, Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, Los Angeles, CA
  • 2001 Hendrik Pickery Zaal of the Halls of the Belfry tower, Grote Markt, Bruges, Belgium
  • 1999 Van de Griff Gallery, Santa Fe, NM
  • 1997 Wright Gallery, New York, NY
  • 1992 Koplin Gallery, Santa Monica, CA
  • 1991 Modernism, San Francisco, CA
  • 1989 Weingart Gallery, Occidental College, Los Angeles, CA
  • 1987 Koplin Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
  • 1986 University Art Gallery, Sonoma State University, Sonoma, CA (catalog)
  • 1986 Western Gallery, Western Washington University, Bellingham, WA
  • 1985 Pamela Auchincloss Gallery, Santa Barbara, CA
  • 1984 Modernism, San Francisco, CA
  • 1982 Sabbatical Studies, Johnston Art Gallery, University of Redlands, Redlands, CA
  • 1980 University Art Gallery, California State University at Fresno, CA
  • 1979 Art Gallery, Santa Barbara City College, Santa Barbara, CA
  • 1973 Galleria Vives, Mahon, Menorca, Balearic Islands, Spain
  • Group Exhibitions (selected list)

  • 2005 "A Broken Beauty: Figuration, Narrative, and the Transcendent in North American Art", Laguna Museum of Art, Laguna, CA
  • 2005 "Scenes of American Labor", Sullivan Goss, Santa Barbara, CA
  • 2004 "Face to Face: Selected American Portraits", Sullivan Goss, Santa Barbara, CA
  • VI. Collections & Commissions


  • National Museum of American Art, Washington D.C.
  • Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), Hawaii
  • Triton Museum, San Jose, CA
  • Ventura County Museum of History and Art, Venura, CA
  • Commissions

  • 2004 "Corpus Christi Tapestries", Corpus Christi University Parish, Toledo, OH
  • 2004 "St. Ann's Altar Triptych", St. Ann Catholic Church, Bartlett, TN
  • 1999-2002"The Communion of the Saints", Our Lady of Angels, Los Angeles, CA
  • 1998 "Jack and Rebecca Benaroya", Benaroya Hall, Seattle, WA
  • 1991 "Prosephone", 48' mural for the Tokyo Grain Exchange, Tokyo, Japan
  • 56' wide Fountain Sculpture, Glendale CA
  • VII. Awards

  • 2003 National Interfaith Forum on Religion, Art and Architecture (IFRAA) Design Honor Award for Visual Art (for tapestries in Our Lady of Angels Cathedral)
  • 1993 Los Angeles Dramalogue Award for Stage Design
  • VIII. Our Lady of Angels Project

    At this time, Sullivan Goss would like to refer people who are interested in John Nava's tapestry cycle for the Communion of Saints at Our Lady of Angels Cathedral in Los Angeles, to an excellent DVD on the project called Divining the Human: The Tapestries of John Nava. It is available here.

    83" x 78"
    Electronic jacquard, cottonwood viscose
    Edition of 10
    John Nava is creating a series of tapestries for Sullivan Goss - An American Gallery. This oversized portrait of a young woman engages the viewer with her compeling gaze. The composition is an obvious homage to old masters like Vermeer, but remains an entirely contemporary portrait.

    IX. Nava's Tapestries: An Old Medium Made New

    For Our Lady of Angels Cathedral in Los Angeles, John Nava innovated a new process for creating monumental tapestries. The artist starts by making a moderately-sized painting of the image he will eventually make into a tapestry. When the oil painting is ready, he scans the image into a computer. The artist then works through an exhaustive process whereby the digital image is configured for a special loom in Bruges, Belgium. The limited color palette of the loom and various textural considerations require special attention at this stage. When the specialized digital file for the loom is finished being prepared, Nava uploads the file via the internet to Belgium. A tapestry arrives several weeks later.

    The artist holds several patents on the process and is currently working to produce a series of new tapestries for Sullivan Goss.

    Detail of R.E. See above for full illustration
    Here the texture and complexity of a large tapestry is made evident.

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