Barbara L. Johnson Biography

Barbara L. Johnson




Barbara Louise Johnson, painter and printmaker, was born in Auburn, Massachusetts on November 10, 1927. An early interest in art led her to the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida for the school years 1946-1948. However, she was discouraged from pursuing an art degree and recieved a Bachelor's degree in Political Science from Smith College in Northampton, MA in 1950. Johnson then attended the University of California, Berkeley in 1951, before joining the Navy's WAVES branch for women in Massachusetts, seeing an opportunity to travel the world. While enlisted, she met and married her husband, Jim.

Between the years 1954 and 1959, Johnson returned to art, studying at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor where she received her B.A. and M.F.A. degrees in studio art. It has also been stated at Johnson studied painting at the Instituto Allende in San Miguel de Allende in Mexico and printmaking at the University of Nebraska Printmaking Workshop in Florence, Italy. In 1969 the Johnson's moved to the Moneterey peninsula in California, where a
mong the exhibitions she participated in were the Monterey County Fair in 1972 and had a solo exhibition at the Tantamount Gallery in Carmel Valley in 1974. She experimented with figurative painting but was never interested in traditional landscape or still life painting. She remembers that by the time she turned 30, “Realism was considered old hat. This was the era of Hans Hoffman, Mark Rothko, and Richard Diebenkorn. That’s when I shifted in the direction of Abstract Expressionism. They were my greatest influences."

When Jim was sent to serve as a U.S. Fishery attache in Japan, Barbara went with him, and they remained there for five years, a period of time that greatly influenced Barbara's art. They returned to the United States in 1981, and with Jim's support, Barbara decided to open an art gallery. At the time, due to the economic sitaution of the central California coast, the Johnson's saw more opportunity for success in Cape Cod, so they moved East and operated a seasonal gallery there for six years. Eventually, weary of the brutal winters, they returned to California in 1988. Barbara juried into the Carmel Art Association that same year on the strength of a series of woodblock prints, and quickly established herself as a part of the local art scene.

Her work was included in numerous group exhibitions in galleries, university and public museums, and traveling exhibitions arranged by the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond; the Western Association of Museums; and the National Association of Women Artists.

Johnson was a member of and exhibited with the Print Club of Albany, the California Society of Printmakers, the Carmel Art Association, the Los Angeles Printmaking Society, the National Association of Women Artists, and the Society of American Graphic Artists. Her honors and awards included the Elizabeth Erlanger Award in Printmaking in 2010; the Shelly Sterling Award in Printmaking, the National Association of Women Artists (N.A.W.A.) in 2008; the Dorothy Tabak Memorial Award for Collage (N.A.W.A.) in 2006; a Pollack-Krasner Foundation Grant in Painting in 2005: the Esther K. Gaynor Award in Printmaking in 2003; the Shelly Sterling Memorial Award in Printmaking (N.A.W.A.) in 2001; Medal of Honor and the Elizabeth Blake Memorial Award (N.A.W.A.) in 1997; and Medal of Honor and the Cotton Memorial Award in Printmaking (N.A.W.A.) in 1991. Johnson’s work is represented in numerous corporate collections.

Barbara L. Johnson died in California on May 14, 2021.