Susan Johnson


September 4 – October 17, 2020

This retrospective exhibit covers the fifty-five-year art career of Susan Johnson. In addition to being a working artist, Johnson has served as an educator, arts administrator, and the former executive director of The Arts Center.

The Power of the Sea, Oilbar collage, 2010
Stepping Stones
Shifting Pathway II, 2008
San Juan Rock II
Hesitation To Go or Not to Go
Emerging Self Portrait

Artist Statement:

I think about my art work as a fifty-five-year pathway of training, teaching, creating, travelling, and family, and community involvement. This pathway began when my twin sister Ann and I were voted the most artistic students in our graduating high school class. Then I became a college art student influenced by abstract design, curved images, strong values, exaggerated colors, and an interest in the human form.

In 1960 I graduated from Connecticut College, taught my first public school first grade class and married my creative, scientific husband. Together we moved across the country and I discovered the West. This new landscape intrigued me and still influences my artwork. – the mountains, lakes, rivers, deserts, rocky coast lines. In 1973 we travelled again, this time to a new environment – New Orleans for nine months, experiencing the public schools, the city museum and the cultural events. I taught children and museum docents.

Beginning in about 1970 I made an effort to become a studio artist – creating and exhibiting regularly. Between 1975 – 1982 I was a fixed term instructor in the OSU Art Department as well as a student. Between 1976 and 1982 I participated in numerous OSU Art Department exhibits. I also took drawing and sculpture classes from Clint Brown and Marian Bowman. The tall wood sculptures in this exhibition resulted from a Clint Brown assignment. He also encouraged me to experiment with different drawing materials. My favorite is a self-portrait that includes pieces of the ceiling that fell from above the Fairbanks Art Department office.

In 1985 I left creating my own artwork and teaching to become the director of the Corvallis Arts Center, a very intense but wonderful eight year job working with many creative people, I was involved in getting public art in Corvallis, developing the da Vinci Days (Festival), encouraging other creatives in both Benton and Linn Counties and also working with the Oregon Arts Commission.

My pathway changed in 1992. I left the Arts Center job and tuned back to creating my own art work and introducing myself to a new medium – oil paint in stick form called Oilbars. They are messy but great for intense colors, strong textures and a sense of nature and pathways. I also used this medium to create bold abstractions and collages. Beginning in 1993 I joined Waterstone Gallery, a coop in Portland, and worked for 20 years with featured artist status every 3 or so years. This is the time that I developed the image within a box design that I became known for.

My work received local attention in 2001 by being chosen for the Arts and Agricultural poster and a year later the Fall Festival poster. In 2008 my Oilbar images “Windows into Oregon” were chosen for an exhibition in the Oregon Governor’s office.

Four years ago much of my artwork was halted as I recovered from major back surgery but my nurse at the hospital brought me a set of colored pencils. In the past I had used these while working with children. Since then I have acquired Prisma colors and learned to get strong colors back into my work.

It’s an honor to be chosen for a retrospective – a history of my life and my art. Thank you

-Susan Johnson, March 2020