Sue Johnson's work has been shown nationally and internationally. Born in San Francisco, CA, Johnson earned a BFA in Painting from Syracuse University and an MFA in Painting from Columbia University, and studied painting in London, England and Florence, Italy with Syracuse University.
Johnson’s work is grounded in the genre of the still life and vanitas, and explores the role of the artist in creating new knowledge, and the history of collections and collectors as she often works collaboratively with museums, libraries and private collections to develop site-specific exhibition projects. Her most recent project, American Dreamscape, is based on the continuing narrative of the American Dream as expressed in designs for the ideal home, and in particular, the post-WWII suburban, single-family home – and its miniature manifestation, the modern dollhouse. Since 1995, she has created work under the rubric of The Alternate Encyclopedia, which serves as a conceptual umbrella for a diverse series of projects that focus on the works of literary figures such as Lewis Carroll and Marianne Moore, New World exploration, and the intersection of art, science and popular culture.
Her work has been the subject of over thirty one-person exhibitions at venues that include the Tweed Museum of Art, Jan Cicero Gallery, Eleanor D. Wilson Museum of Hollins University, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Pitt Rivers Museum, Midwest Museum of American Art, Swarthmore College, Anderson Gallery/VCU, The Rosenbach Museum and Library, Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum, Walton Art Center, University of Memphis, and University of Richmond Museums. Grants include awards from the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts/Mid Atlantic Foundation Fellowship, the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, and four Individual Artist Awards from the Maryland State Arts Council. Selected residency fellowships include the Arts/Industry Program, John Michael Kohler Art Center, Mac Dowell Colony, Millay Colony, Art Omi International Artist Colony, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, City of Salzburg/Salzburg Kunstlerhaus Residency Fellowship, Scuola Internazionale di Grafica Venezia, Jentel Foundation, CAMAC/Centre D'Art Marnay Art Centre, American Philosophical Society/Andre Michaux Library Research Fellowship, and American Antiquarian Society research fellowship. In 2010-11 Johnson served as Visiting Scholar in Residence at the Centre for Medieval & Renaissance Studies in Oxford, England, and was a Visiting Artist at the American Academy in Rome. Reviews of her work have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Art Examiner, and Art Papers. Her work is in numerous public collections including MOMA/Franklin Furnace Archive, Yale University Libraries, U.S. Embassy Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Smithsonian American Art Museum Libraries, Prudential Life Insurance Co., Bristol-Myers/Squibb, Tweed Museum of Art, Maier Museum of Art, Bucknell University, Francis J. Greenburger Foundation, among many others. Johnson is a professor of art in the Department of Art & Art History at St. Mary's College of Maryland, and she lives in Richmond, VA.