Night Muse: Painter's Inspiration Comes From Dreams



Chris Reynolds' contemporary, surrealist paintings come to him when he dreams.

The regard the soft-spoken young man holds for what he calls "native spirituality," is realized in his paintings of ka-hopis and mudheads.


Chris Reynolds, like many Rim Country artists, takes advantage of the sunlight to paint outside. When he is inside, he likes to paint on the floor.

"I was having dreams and visions while working as a waiter in San Diego and I met a man. He was Lakota, and he invited me to a sweat lodge."

His experience in the lodge, led to research into the culture and legends of native peoples. Those experiences began to inspire what flowed through his fingers when he picked up his paintbrush.

"I am really grateful to have this talent because I just love doing it," he said.

He has been painting professionally for 10 years.

When he was still in elementary school, Reynolds opened his parent's book, "History of Art" and discovered Salvador Dali's and Pablo Picasso's work.

"I would explain the paintings to my parents," he said.

His library card more often than not was stamped for art and mythology books.

Graffiti artists like Barry Twist McGee have also influenced Reynolds' work.

He respects the art of David Gray.

"Gray talks about the resonance of archetypes and how the more you paint an archetype, the more powerful it becomes," Reynolds said.

Reynolds was still a high school student when he started art classes at Palomar Community College.


"Maasau" depicts the first human seen by the guardian of America when the Hopi arrived by boat.

His instructor became his mentor which led Reynolds to a full scholarship to the San Francisco Art Institute.

"I learned a lot from my peers there," he said.

Chris eventually moved to the Pala Indian Reservation near San Diego, Calif. where he began to sculpt mudhead kachinas out of clay.

"It is a very spiritual experience for me to mold clay; I wouldn't want to sell those pieces and I can't put all the colors and feelings into clay that I can when I paint."

Reynolds said the feedback he has received from Native Americans he has met or who have looked at his Web site has been positive.

"They like my paintings; they think they are funny," he said.

It is interesting to hear their perspective because for a lot of them, these characters were scary while they are little kids."

Mudheads have little bumps on their heads and carry the seeds/footprints of the first people. The mudheads are fun-loving. They come out during the intermission of ceremonies, acting as clowns.

"The ka-hopi makes fun of greedy people by begging," Reynolds said. "There is a Hopi story of a greedy kiisat (hawk) stealing other people's chickens."

Several years ago Reynolds was able to visit Hotevilla on the Hopi Reservation.

His move to Payson a few months ago brought him nearer to the source of his dreams.


Name: Chris Reynolds

Medium: acrylic

Age: 28

Advice to beginning artists: The same advice my college art instructor, Doug Hall, gave me -- Never negate the power of your dreams.

Motto: To paraphrase the Sufi poet Hafiz -- just rest because your separation from God is the hardest work in the world.

Upcoming project: Incorporating the realism of photography into my art.

Hobbies: Hiking and drinking too much coffee. I always order the lightest brew, it has the most caffeine.

Fave music: Bjork and Bob Dylan

Points of contact: Down the Street Art Galley, 703 W. Main St., Payson (928) 468-6129 and online at

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