The solo exhibition of nationally celebrated artist John Maull, Jr., a South L.A. native continues to garner praise and national attention. Maull has a strong artistic following, and is well known for his colorful creations of treescapes from ballpoint pen, colored pencil and paint.
These ephemeral works are comprised of layers and redactions that add depth and movement inspired by experiences he had growing up in a Christian family. In this way, his art practice is an extension of his relationship with his family, and his faith.
Maull’s work is featured in Los Angeles and New York art galleries. Currently, his artist renderings are on display at First Street Gallery in Upland, California, Tierra Del Sol Gallery in L.A.’s Chinatown, and through Raw Vision at the Outsider Art Fair exhibit in New York. Also, his art pieces were recently featured in the New York Times.
John, who is now age 68, was born developmentally disabled. However, according to his sister, Johnnie, “He had the support of his parents, particularly during an era when parents were more inclined to hide family members with intellectual disabilities rather than empower them,”
Although Maull’s father passed away early in his life, his mom, Rosie Maull, remained an advocate and influencer of caregiving for John until her passing at age 93 in 2005.
Being well aware of mainstreaming challenges ahead of her son, she nurtured his artistic abilities in a caring God-centered home environment. John was encouraged to draw from different objects in and around the house. Over time, he became fixated on flowers, treescapes, animals, and train tracks in the neighborhood. In his youth, Maull would keep drawing the same things over and over, which has been channeled into the stunning art pieces now featured in art galleries.
Through ritual repetition, Maull abstracts his trees to distill his subject matter to a qualitative essence. Maull’s abstract language reveals a practice that tunes the viewer into his passion for nature and his joy of making. He is also known for his sculpting that vividly depicts his passion for capturing the spirit of his love of animals.
“Having a relationship with God, and partaking in sacred spiritual practices such as daily prayer, has always been a part of John’s home life and upbringing. We, as his siblings, believe it is those early childhood faith rituals that helped to shape his kind and gentle spirit as an adult and artist,” said his brother, James. “We are so thankful for the sacred connection that John has with God, and credit our parents for instilling early family and church centered values.”
Maull’s life has been an inspiration to many families who care for loved ones challenged with intellectual disabilities such as autism and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Needless to say, having an intellectual disability has been tough on John. His family is very protective of him, because he has certain and very distinct limitations in mental functioning and communicating, which impacts his ability to take care of himself.
His expressive mixed media works are also influenced by his personal and cultural histories that are rooted in faith practices as well as his dedicated perusal of books and magazines, noted Gallery curator Rebecca Hamm, who explained, “I believe that his impressionistic renderings demonstrate his passion for building visual literacy by investigating imagery and experimenting with texture and form.”
Well-known artists, collectors, and gallery curators are followers of John’s artwork. Many describe Maull’s treescapes as a passionate depiction of sweeping hillside foliage blowing in the wind.
Hamm said, “John’s color dense works reflect his personal experiences with larger cultural references that exist in both the canon, for example, Warhol’s flowers, and on its periphery, with the modernist still life paintings by William H. Johnson, one of the most important Black American artists (who was coincidently also self-taught). Both these artists abstract flora, affirming a tradition that includes Maull’s.”
John’s family consider it God’s grace and mercy that continues to blanket John with a caring home life and nurturing artistic learning environment that is of the utmost importance for creative artists with mental intellectual disabilities.