Designs for Imaginary Shelves (Images 1-10)
Inspired by a Chinese-style red lacquer circular shelf made by her Swedish grandfather when she was a child, Johnson takes this primary form into new territories. More about the absence of things, these imaginary shelves are designs for building a modern cabinet of curiosities. Tapping into the autobiographical, the artist sketches initial models while traveling. The first set developed while sitting in cafés and bars in Oxford, England, and the second set came about while the artist spent a winter sojourn in Venice, Italy. Designs start in small notebooks aided by things at hand - tracing bar glasses for circles and using menus for rulers. Solitary cultural objects appear on some of the shelves, including such things as Italian pastries and confections seen in cross-section views, and art works visited while abroad.
The Inventories (Images 11-15)
There is something cinematic about The Inventories, a kind of warped, sequential space inspired by the panorama popular in the late nineteenth century. These works are also in the tradition of artist sketchbooks, and I have been specifically re-imagining a contemporary work to be in dialogue with Hokusai’s remarkable collection of drawings of landscapes, flora and fauna, everyday life and even the supernatural known as the Hokusai Manga. My own variation seems tied together like an old-fashioned souvenir postcard set; each work is a collection of fragments, a synthetic construction composed of recognizable things and places. The overall amalgam creates a sort of flat, imaginary wunderkammer. Pictures of things often live longer than the things themselves, and when presented together as if on a supermarket shelf these folding inventories collapse difference and transgress categories of what is real or imagined, natural or artificial. So it is that while on the surface the project appears to represent and document all manner of things in a descriptive language that signals truth and accuracy, the sum of its parts is more elusive than a simple inventory of things.
Artist Bio / CV
Sue Johnson earned a BFA in painting from Syracuse University and an MFA in painting from Columbia University. She has had one-person exhibitions at the Tweed Museum of Art, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Jan Cicero Gallery, Schroeder Romero/Winkleman Gallery Project Space, Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts, Artists Space, McLean Project for the Arts, John Michael Kohler Art Center, Midwest Museum of American Art, Swarthmore College, Anderson Gallery-Virginia Commonwealth University, and University of Richmond Museums. In her work Johnson often collaborates with museums and special collections and has created special projects with the Rosenbach Museum and Library, The Museum of the American Philosophical Society, Bucknell University Collections, and Carleton College. Grants include awards from the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts/Mid Atlantic Foundation Fellowship, New Jersey State Council on the Arts Grant, and four Individual Artist Awards from the Maryland State Arts Council. Selected residency fellowships include the Kohler Co. Arts/Industry Program, The Mac Dowell Colony, Millay Colony, Art Omi International Artist Colony, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Hambidge Cetner for the Arts & Sciences, Vermont Studio Center, Ragdale Foundation, Oberpfälzer Künstlerhaus Fellowship, Jentel Foundation, Stadt Salzburg Kunstlerhaus Fellowship, American Philosophical Society/Andre Michaux Library Research Fellowship, and American Antiquarian Society Creative Arts Research fellowship. Works are in the permanent collections of The Prudential, Exxon Company, Francis J. Greenburger Foundation, Bucknell University, Maier Museum of Art, Tweed Museum of Art, Bristol-Myers/Squibb and the John Michael Kohler Art Center.