Sue Johnson lives and works in Richmond, VA and St. Mary's City, MD. Born in San Francisco, CA, the artist's family subsequently moved to Palos Verdes in southern California, then moved east to northern New Jersey. Johnson earned a BFA in Painting from Syracuse University and a MFA in Painting from Columbia University, and studied painting in London, England and Florence, Italy with Syracuse University. Johnson’s artworks and installation projects explore the history of images, collections and collectors, and she has often worked collaboratively with museums, libraries and private collections.
"Johnson's work makes various art historical allusions ranging from ancient Pompeiian mosaics and 17th-century Dutch still-life paintings to Dada and Pop collages. Despite spanning a vast expanse of time and place, these references share a common fascination with commodities that Johnson remixes through a 21st-century lens. Specifically, Johnson’s work is rooted in the tradition of 17th-century Dutch still-life paintings known as vanitas—images that contemplate the transience of life through the display of symbolic objects. Her process intentionally blurs the boundaries between the real and the imagined, the historical and the timeless, the hand-painted and the digital. What results is an immersive environment constantly tugging at our sense of what is real." - from Patricia Lee Daigle's essay for Home of Future Things at The University of Memphis (2016)
Johnson's 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. Johnson served as Visiting Scholar in Residence at the Centre for Medieval & Renaissance Studies in Oxford, England (2010-11), and has been a Visiting Artist at the American Academy in Rome in 2011 and 2015. 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 had held teaching positions at Parsons School of Design, Marymount Manhattan College, Herron School of Art/Indiana University-Purdue University in Indianapolis, and currently is Professor of Art in the Department of Art & Art History at St. Mary's College of Maryland.