Rebecca Johnson grew up in an art-centric family in rural Hopewell, New Jersey. Her parents were designers, artists and art educators and "Life is Art" was the family credo. This philosophy enriched and continues to inform Johnson's art and career.
As a young artist, Johnson embraced the path of the successful professional. She received her BFA from Tyler School of Art and her MFA from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. She studied bronze casting at the Johnson Atelier in New Jersey and stone carving in quarries in Vermont. Grants, fellowships, shows in galleries and museums, commissions, critical acclaim and teaching positions at Dartmouth and Kenyon Colleges distinguished her career.
A fulcrum of change occurred when The British American Arts Council awarded her a three-month fellowship to work in Northwest Wales. In this land of stonewalls, craggy mountains, wild coast and rich folkloric history, Johnson’s ideas gestated. Time and solitude created space for her to thoroughly see and imbibe the light, color and form of the land. Her exterior and interior visions integrated and enhanced each other. Johnson discovered a new degree of courage and conviction to follow her work to its true ultimate power, rural nature and a poetic vision.
Johnson returned home to Philadelphia where her next project was the transformation of a cavernous train depot into a showroom for Material Culture in Philadelphia. The completion of rich earth tone and midnight blue murals, one hundred feet long and thirty feet high, reassured her a personal metamorphosis was also possible. She packed her tools, cats and dog and headed west.
Johnson now lives and works in Mendocino County in Northern California, a place of raw elemental forces. Inside a large renovated barn at her studio in the Anderson Valley, she creates paintings. The doors of the studio open to a hillside meadow filled with her stone sculpture. The calm beauty of this rural place resonates from her work.
Why does one color or shape zing while another appears flat? The reason is the existence of a powerful force or energy. Many cultures have studied this phenomenon. The Chinese call it chi. Neolithic tribes such as the Druids built stone circles in scared sites which emit this energy. We now call the sites and their connections to one another ley lines. In the sixties, hippies hummed with the vibe; in the seventies, Luke Skywalker was be-knighted in the ways of the force.
Whatever the name, chi, vibe or force, this energy is mysterious and elusive. It exists in Rothko’s hovering color and Hepworth’s chiseled voids. It is this power that I experiment with and cultivate in my art. I call it zing.
Observation of the land feeds my art. From the landscape I gather materials such as stone, barn wood, color and light. Each material inspires me.
Three hundred pounds of granite moves and feels differently then three hundred pounds of blue stone. I combine these materials with elements, sky, water or the color of dirt. How much color, how simple a shape, how I move them next to each other, this is what brings my work to life. I work the material to a place of tension or peace. I am like a dowser looking for an aquifer hidden but present. The longer I practice the more I strive for a subtler touch or a simpler conveyance.
Zing exists within all shapes, textures, colors and materials. Tapping this force is like tapping and splitting a stone. This is the mystery and the magic. This search for zing drives my work.
Selected Solo Exhibitions
2017 "Light as Blue," Mendocino Art Center, Mendocino, CA
2015 "Window Project," PDX Gallery, Portland, OR
2014 "Something," Farm Gallery and Project room, Wellfleet, MA
2012 "Field of Vision - Northern California Barns," Spindrift Gallery, Gualala, CA
2008 "Field of Vision - Northern California Barns," Spindrift Gallery, Gualala, CA
2006 "Prayer for Rivers," Morris Graves Museum of Art, Eureka, CA
2005 "Moving Light," Curator: William Torphy Fine Arts, 50 Fremont Street, San Francisco, CA
1997 "Matter of Being," Olin Art Gallery, Kenyon College, Gambier, OH
1997 Larry Becker Gallery, Philadelphia, PA
1995 Larry Becker Gallery, Philadelphia, PA
1994 DNA Gallery, Provincetown, MA
1992 Larry Becker Gallery, Philadelphia, PA
1989 Larry Becker Gallery, Philadelphia, PA
1988 Marcuse Pfeifer Gallery, New York, NY
1986 Marcuse Pfeifer Gallery, New York, NY
1986 University of Rhode Island, Kingston, RI
1984 "Challenge Exhibition," The Fleisher Art Memorial, The Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA
1983 Nexus Gallery, Philadelphia, PA
1982 "Sculpture Installation," Painted Bride Art Center, Philadelphia, PA
Selected Group Exhibitions
2018 "sculptureWALK," at Jack London Village, Sculpturesite Gallery, Glen Ellen, CA
2012 "The Female Gaze: Women Artists Making Their World," Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts Museum, Philadelphia, PA
2005 Long View Museum of Art, Longview, TX
2005 Art Center of Northern New Jersey, Juried Show, Juror: Jordan Cantor (Assistant Curator Dept. of Drawings, MoMA, NYC), New Milford, NJ
2005 "Varieties of Form," Mendocino College, Ukiah, CA
2001 "Elemental Interpretations," Grace Hudson Museum, Ukiah, CA
1998 "Two Dimension Three Dimension," Mendocino College, Ukiah, CA
1996 "Biennial," Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington, DE - Best in Show prize
1996 "Nature Morte: Contemporary Still Life," Curator: Julie Courtney, Museum of American Art, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA
1994 Sharadin Art Gallery, Kutztown University, Kutztown, PA
1994 "In and Out of the Landscape: Site Specific Outdoor Sculpture," Curator: Harry Anderson,
Penn State Berks County, Reading, PA
1991 "Philadelphia Art Now: Artists Choose Artists," chosen by Rochelle Toner (Dean, Tyler School of Art), Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia, PA
1989-1996 "Survey of Gallery Artists," Larry Becker Gallery, Philadelphia, PA
1990 "Contemporary Philadelphia Artists," Philadelphia Museum of Art
1987 "Art Quest '87," Jurors: M. Jacob (Chief Curator, MoCA, LA), L. Sharp (Curator, Met, NYC), P. Sims (Curator, Whitney, NYC), E. Smith (Assistant Curator, MoCA, LA), D. Wye (Curator, MoMA, NYC); The Art Institute of Boston, California State University, Los Angeles, CA
1987 "Drawings by Sculptors," Dolan Maxwell Gallery, Philadelphia, PA
1987 "Works on Paper," Beaver College, Glenside, PA
1984 "Rebecca Johnson Sculptures, Susan Rothenberg Prints," Paul Cava Gallery, Philadelphia, PA
Selected Public Commissions
2007 Anderson Valley Elementary School, mosaic entrance, Boonville, CA
2004 Boonville People's Park, park entrance: mosaic gate, Boonville, CA
2000 The Leeway Foundation, design for the Leeway Laurel Award
1997 Abington Art Center Sculpture Garden, outdoor sculpture, Jenkintown, PA
1995 Eliot Pearson Children’s School, park entrance: engraved stone ballards, Tufts University, Boston, MA
1996 Material Culture, murals and showroom design, Philadelphia, PA
1996 ABC Home Furnishing, showroom murals, New York, NY
Selected Corporate Commissions
AIA Corporation, Philadelphia, PA
IFIDA Health Care, Broomall, PA
Balo Vineyards, Philo, CA
Selected Awards, Fellowships and Grants
2016 Winesong Artist of the Year, Hospital Foundation, Fort Bragg, CA
1996 Best in Show Grand Prize, Delaware Art Museum Biennial, Wilmington, DE
1992 Fellowship, Chester Springs Studio, Chester Springs, PA
1991 Fellowship, British American Arts Council, Parc Gynllifon, Caenarfon, Wales, UK
1991 Neighborhood Arts Grant, Office of Arts and Culture, Philadelphia, PA
1990 Neighborhood Arts Grant, Office of Arts and Culture, Philadelphia, PA
1988 Fellowship, Vermont Studio Colony, Johnson, VT
1985 Fellowship for Sculpture, Pennsylvania Council of the Arts
1983 Fellowship for Sculpture, Pennsylvania Council of the Arts
2016 "Savor the New Coastal Charm of Mendocino County," by Blaine Bachelor. New York Magazine, September 7, 2016.
2016 "5 Reasons to Visit Anderson Valley Now," by Kim Westerman. Forbes.com, April 5, 2016.
2015 Review by Richard Speer, Willamette Week, March 25, 2015.
1997 "Sticks and Stones: she made her own," by Michelle Santangelo. Kenyon Collegian, Arts & Entertainment, November 6, 1997, p. 11.
1997 "Living with Material Culture," by Cathleen McCarthy, VM+SD, September, 1997, pp. 34-38.
1996 "Nature: In Memoriam, a new exhibit at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts celebrates the Philadelphia Flower Show- with a twist," by Judith West. Seven Arts, Philadelphia, March, 1996, pp. 40, 55.
1995 "Rebecca Johnson at Larry Becker Gallery," Review by Eileen Neff. Art Forum, October 1995, p. 105.
1994 In and Out of the Landscape Catalogue, by Harry Anderson. Penn State, Berks Campus, Reading, PA.
1994 Sculpture '94 Lanny Bergner, Rebecca Johnson, Joe Nacastri Catalogue, by Ella Mary Marra. Sharadin Art Gallery, Kutztown University, Kutztown, PA.
1992 "Rebecca Johnson at Larry Becker Gallery," Review by Miriam Siedel. Art in America, October 1992, p. 157.
1992 "Have Chainsaw Will Travel: Rebecca Johnson has carved her way through Welsh slate, Cape Cod pine and a Philadelphia playground" by Robin Rice. Philadelphia City Paper, March 6, 1992, p. 10.
1992 "In works made in Wales, artist uses stone to make her point," by Ed Sozanski. The Philadelphia Inquirer, February 27, 1992.
1991 Artists Choose Artists Catalogue, Curator: Julie Courtney, Contributions: Janet Kaplan, Judith Tannenbaum. Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia PA, January-March 1991, p. 93.
1991 "Mystery Pervades Show, Easton Gallery Exhibition One of Contrasts," by Jane Welker. Lehigh Valley Express, Easton, PA, March 1, 1991, p. D-10.
1990 Contemporary Philadelphia Artists, A Juried Exhibition Catalogue, Jurors: Penny Bach, Marge Goldwater, George Segal. Philadelphia Museum of Art, April-July 1990, p. 14.
1989 "Rebecca Johnson at Larry Becker Gallery," Review by Anne Shuster Hunter. New Art Examiner, Philadelphia, PA Summer 1989, p. 46.
1985 "The abstract isn't old hat," by Ed Sozanski. The Philadelphia Inquirer, January 31, 1985.
1984 "Playful and Primordial: two halves of a show, Rebecca Johnson and Susan Rothenberg," by Ed Sozanski. The Philadelphia Inquirer, June 5, 1984.
Selected Professional Experience
1999-2001 Assistant Curator, Grace Hudson Museum, Ukiah, CA
1997 Assistant Professor, Sculpture, Kenyon College, Gambier, OH
1994-1995 Instructor, Painting, Mainline Art Center, Haverford, PA
1994 Assistant Professor, Sculpture, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH
1993-1995 Instructor, Painting and Drawing, Chester Springs Studio, Chester Springs, PA
1993 Visiting Artist, Sculpture Installation, West Virginia Wesleyan College, Buckhannon, WV
1990 Instructor, Art History, Camden County College, Camden, NJ
1989-1990 Instructor, 2-D & 3-D Design, Bucks County College, Newtown, PA
1994 MFA: Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA
1980 BFA: Tyler School of Art, Elkins Park, PA
1980 Johnson Atelier of Sculpture, Princeton, NJ