Johnny DeFeo

P.O. Box 563 Arroyo Hondo, NM 87513 / 303.704.2345 / /


Born 1985

2007 BA in Studio Art, Western State Colorado University, Gunnison, CO.

2017 MFA in Painting and Drawing, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO.

Teaching Experience

2020-21 Instructor, University of Colorado Boulder

2014- 2017 Graduate Part-Time Instructor, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO



Winter in the Valley (Adventure painting residency show), The Valley, Taos, NM


Adventure Painting, 1969 Gallery, New York, NY

Mountain Standard Time, Visions West Contemporary, Denver, CO

Interiors: a view from the living room, 1969 Gallery, New York, NY


Even when you’re not sure, something out there knows right where you are, (solo), Visions West Contemporary, Denver, CO

Poems For Our Country, Union Hall, Denver, CO

Representing the West (Juror’s award), Sangre de Cristo Art Center, Pueblo, CO

Get a Loom, Softcore LA, Los Angeles, CA


Made in Colorado, Emmanuel Gallery, Denver, CO

Plus One, Project Artspace, New York, NY 

The Department of the Interior (solo), Visions West Contemporary, Livingston, MT

PULSE Art Fair, Project Artspace, Miami, FL


San Escobar, Gildar Gallery, Denver, CO 

MFA Exhibition, University of Colorado Art Museum, Boulder, CO

King Exhibition (juried-winner), CU Boulder, CO

Party Art Truck invitational exhibition, Mobile exhibition across the Western US


Wet Paint MFA Biennial, juried, Zhou Brothers Gallery, Chicago, IL 

National Juried MFA Exhibition, First Street Gallery, New York, NY

Re:Collection, University of Colorado Museum of Natural History, Boulder, CO

National Parks: Personal Narratives, juried, The Phipps Center for the Arts, Hudson, WI

Public Art and Collections

DeWoody Collection, Fidelity Investments, City of Hartford, CT, Aetna Insurance Company, New Britain Museum of American Art, University of Colorado Art Collection, IMIG Music Building at the University of Colorado, Hilton Hotels, AC Hotels, Bohemian Foundation/City of Fort Collins, BMC Investments, Edens Development, Parc Mosaic Boulder, Zeppelin Development


Ray Rinaldi’s review of my solo show for the Denver Post
Mentioned as a highlight of 2019 in Denver

Allen, Tyler. “Department of the Interior with Johnny DeFeo.” Strung Magazine Dec. 2018: 108-13. Print.

O’brien, Kerry. “Keen to start an art collection? Step this way.” The Age.  May, 2019. Print and online. 


2019 SWAB Mobile Artist Residency — Pacific Northwest

TAXI Residency, Denver, CO  

2018 Jentel Foundation, Sheridan Wyoming

SWAB Mobile Artist Residency, — Southwest

Artist Statement

“Our identity expands and is enriched as the places that we feel at home, if only temporarily, are multiplied.”

-Yi-Fu Tuan

An artist’s job is to point out, through their artwork, something that otherwise may not be seen; to illuminate this strange world in some fashion. Wild spaces, untamed nature, pristine wilderness- whatever name these places go by, my emotional and spiritual growth depend on their continued existence.
My work has always been a form of souvenir, attempting to capture the experiences of being immersed in wilderness where I feel free and most at home. My paintings and tufted yarn wall hangings focus on the beauty and connection between the primordial and the manufactured.

And as I am not much of a writer, please read below an essay written by the lovely Ari M. Myers about the work in my most recent solo show at Visions West Contemporary–

Even when you’re not sure, something out there knows right where you are

An exhibition of new works by Johnny DeFeo

“And in looking over the yet uncultivated scene, the mind’s eye may see far into futurity. Where the wolf roams, the plough shall glisten; on the gray crag shall rise temple and tower–mighty deeds shall be done in the now pathless wilderness; and poets yet unborn shall sanctify the soil.” — Thomas Cole, Essay on American Scenery, 1836

Even when you’re not sure, something out there knows right where you are is an exhibition of new works by Johnny DeFeo, a Denver-based painter and maker of fine decorative objects. Spanning a breadth of mediums including paintings, tufted yarn wall hangings, textiles and wall coverings designed by the artist, the works in this exhibition envision a holistic relationship between humankind and the natural world. DeFeo’s aesthetic is wild and playful, utilizing a dose of humor to transmit his earnest goal of creating objects that illuminate the connections between beauty both quintessential and manufactured. 

DeFeo’s new body of work is comprised primarily of landscape scenes, most of which include animals. Often, the perspective expressed in these scenes is that of the wildlife portrayed, shifting the subject away from a human vantage point and revealing the mysteries of the natural world. Imagining that the creatures inhabiting America’s wilderness could be storytellers through objects and images the way that humans can, these objects portray the natural world with a tender perspective, and with mystical and legendary qualities. The moments DeFeo chooses to portray are sacred and primordial, as if they are the cultural documents of forest dwellers. These scenes don’t involve humankind, and have been taking place long before we existed or were paying attention. DeFeo reminds us that waterfalls don’t turn off at night. Elk lock antlers without camera crews around to capture them. Sometimes, a wolf will be struck by a rainbow hanging in the mist over a gorge and will stop to marvel at his surroundings. 

These works alongside new paintings from DeFeo’s Department of the Interior series tell parallel stories of the perceived divide between unmitigated wilderness and human construction. The genre of landscape painting has historically been a tool of the latter, utilizing the land as a stage, or a backdrop, to foreground works of God, of mythic forces, or man’s accomplishments. In Department of the Interior, DeFeo explores a similar trope of architecture and design which utilizes the landscape as a feature in a well-designed and covetable piece of real estate. The draw he feels to both vast exterior views and pristine interior spaces like those that fill slick home design magazines, is enacted as paintings of imagined homes with spectacular views and fantastical furniture. Despite the cognitive dissonance produced by seeing some of America’s most iconic landscapes through a living room picture window, it’s hard to argue that you wouldn’t like to live there. That’s the power of The Department of the Interior series- it illustrates contemporary society’s struggle for balance of our needs for nature vs. culture. 

Taken as a whole, the works Even when you’re not sure, something out there knows right where you are, DeFeo illustrates that our relationship to the land is not a simplistic tale of good vs. evil or man vs. nature, but a complex and layered one. These works ask the viewer to listen to the call of the wild, and look for balance in the way they consume, interact, and participate in the dually robust and fragile ecosystems of America. 

Johnny DeFeo lives and works in Denver, Colorado. He earned his MFA in painting from CU Boulder in 2017. During his graduate studies he exhibited in national juried MFA exhibitions in New York and Chicago, and organized exhibitions and collaborative curatorial projects with artists and curators in Boulder and Denver. He is a co-founder of SWAB (Southwest American Bullet), a traveling artist residency organized along with painter Aaron Zulpo. DeFeo creates artworks, textiles, and tufted yarn wall hangings, all of which belong to the concept of souvenir, attempting to capture the experiences he has in the natural world, where he feels free and most at home.