Coloring book-like image of a group of three figures with beaked headware

John Bankston

Portrait of artist John Bankston
Play Video
'John Bankston: Locating Desire,' de Young Museum, Connections Gallery, 2006

Selected Work


Artist Statement

I consider my work as an ongoing visual narrative of the main character, Mr. M, as he journeys through Rainbow Forest.  The narrative is generally conveyed through a series of drawings that are punctuated with paintings.  Both the drawings and the paintings combine elements of figuration and abstraction.  The images flow from daydreams and stories from my past.  Mr. M, somewhat callow and having been captured and brought to Rainbow Forest, is forced to learn the ways of the his new environment.  Since San Francisco’s stay at home orders earlier this year, I have worked from my home studio, rather than from my studio at the Hunter’s Point Shipyard (which includes a large community of artists).  Working from my smaller home studio has changed the way I work  – with my use of materials being looser and more playful, but at the same time more aggressive in terms of paint application.  My most recent work has been informed by both how I now work as well as what is going on in the world – the global pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement in particular – and focuses on my notions of freedom and its constraints.

I was born in Benton Harbor, Michigan and currently live and work in San Francisco.  I always made art growing up, but (with some amount of family pressure) had decided to become a doctor.  While studying at the University of Chicago (from which I received an AB in Biology) I had the good fortune of taking a studio art class from a wonderful Chicago artist, Vera Clement.  I determined then to become an artist. I moved to San Francisco after graduating from the University of Chicago, took classes at the San Francisco Art Institute, developed a portfolio, and was admitted to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where I received my MFA.  While at SAIC, I studied with the artists Ray Yoshida and Don Baum.  Ray and Don were part of a group of artists that became known as the Chicago Imagists.  As teachers, they opened the door for me to outsider art, non-western art, eccentric image making and storytelling and to trust intuition.  I also attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, where I had the opportunity to study with Jacob Lawrence. During my artistic practice, I have received the following awards : Artadia artist’s grant, Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation award, Fleishhacker Eureka Fellowship Joan Mitchell Foundation award and a SECA award from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

My work is included in a number of public and private collections including the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the de Young Museum , the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art and the Studio Museum in Harlem.

Mailing List Signup

Make an appointment

We are located at:
1275 Minnesota Street
San Francisco, CA 94107

Click for map + directions

Not seeing a time that works for you? Feel free to email us for alternates:


To leave a comment for the gallery, fill out the form below.