Col. John D. Irvin

   John was born on September 14, 1918 in Miami, Arizona. He was the son of an early Arizona physician and surgeon. He attended Phoenix Union High School and later on Fullerton College in California. With the threat of World War II, he entered flying school, graduating from Luke Air Force Base on December 12, 1941, five days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. He was soon on his way to the European Theater of Operations, flying the P-47 Thunderbolt aircraft. His initiation into combat flying was with members of the famous Eagle Squadron. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross three times and the Air Medal on four occasions for his participation in eighty-six combat missions over occupied Europe and the destruction of four German fighter aircraft in aerial combat. Upon completion of his combat tour and his return to the United States in the fall of 1944, he joined the first fighter group in the air force to fly the Bell YP-59, a forerunner of all modern jet-propelled aircraft. Following a rewarding twenty-five years in the U.S. Air force and many interesting assignments, he retired in 1965 with a rank of Colonel.

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   Stemming from the days of his youth, he has enjoyed an ever-increasing interest and aptitude for the creative arts. The combination of rock inlay, silverwork, decorative metalwork, and working with fine woods, now takes his interest and holds hope for continued expansion. His work centers on the lifestyle of the West. Wild animals, horses, birds, cactus, mountains, cattlemen, and the fascinating world of the Native American demand his attention with the challenge of presentation and portrayal. He feels that the rock, metals, and wood are beauty in themselves and are expressed through the heavy applications of work, patience, and perfectionism.

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   Learning to do intarsia was a painstaking process for the artist. There was no literature available on this art form and there was no one to teach Irvin how to do intarsia work. He learned by trial and error while stationed in Newfoundland. His first piece was a wood intarsia; then he made his first stone commesso (intarsia), which took him ten months to complete.

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   John collected different types of rocks from all over the world. Some he picked up when traveling and others he bought from various parts of the globe. He estimates there are over 300 different types of rock in his shop.
He is married to his best supporter, art critic, and color consultant Betty Irvin. They raised two children, John Jr. and Lynne. John and Betty spent many years in Amador County, California, where they belonged to the Amador County Gem & Mineral Society.

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   His interest in Native Americans and their culture stems from his boyhood in Arizona, where he was raised close to the reservations. His art uses mostly the Hopi, Navajo, and Apache tribes for subject material. The majority of the work revolves around the Hopi Kachinas, ancestral spirits and messengers of the gods, the Navajo Yei, spirits and gods believed to dwell in sacred lands such as Canyon De Chelly, and the Apache Gan Dancers.

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   A selection of Navajo Yei were chosen by a bank in Tucson; and an Eagle Kachina is on permanent display in the Valley National Bank Gallery of Western Art along side such notable western artists as Remington, Russell, and Wyeth. John passed away on October 17, 2000.

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