D.J. Lafon was born in Ogden, Utah and took an early interest in art. He began making a living as an artist at the age of 18 and was featured in Life Magazine as one of America's top emerging artists in 1951. He received his Bachelor's and Master's of Fine Art in painting and drawing from the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.
In 1964, after years of working as an illustrator and teaching painting and drawing, Lafon assumed the chairmanship of the Art Department at East Central University in Ada. While teaching, Lafon remained dedicated to the creation of his own art. He considered teaching to be his second job and worked diligently in his home studio at night. Lafon retired from teaching in 1984 and moved to a home in rural east Norman where he committed himself full-time to his own artwork.
Lafon served as the Visual Arts Director for the Oklahoma Arts Institute and as a Guest Artist at Wichita State University in 1990. He was the recipient of many honors and awards including a Governor's Arts Award in 1992 and the 2007 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Paseo Arts Association. He presented his work in numerous solo and group exhibitions and his work was acquired by many museums, galleries, and public collections including the State Art Collections of Oklahoma and Utah, the University of North Carolina Art Museum, Springfield Art Museum, Oklahoma City Art Museum, Philbrook Museum in Tulsa, Southwestern Bell Telephone, Conoco and Koch Industries. Lafon also completed various public commissions for Warner Brothers, the University of Oklahoma School of Dentistry, and the Ada Public Library, among others. Lafon has been represented by JRB Art at the Elms in Oklahoma City since 2003.
Lafon had a long running series of paintings investigating people of power, including generals, popes, business leaders, and politicians.
This exhibit features many of Lafon's businessmen. Of the series, Lafon said, "One of the most mysterious and difficult things is people. Why do they do what they do? I used to spend a lot of time looking through magazines to see 'what is General so and so doing? And what is this person doing?' And you do hear a little bit about businessmen now, but we really don't know what they do. I don't know what they do really behind closed doors. They are kind of mysterious."
Lafon was a notoriously humble and genuine artist with just a touch of sarcasm. He passed away at his Norman studio on January 18, 2011. His wife Dortha was by his side.
The longer I work on art the more I am convinced that artists shouldn't talk about their work. I work in a non-verbal form of communications, although I will occasionally write something on a drawing or painting. In written statements, one often applies academic justifications for what the artist has done. These statements are usually nonsense. Art needs to provoke an emotional response totally on the visual content of the work. Whatever is said about the work will not matter a hundred years from now. I have failed if I can't make you look and feel something by visual means alone.
This exhibit, courtesy of JRB Art at the Elms, is sponsored by the Oklahoma Arts Council.