Sue Johnson

2000 Sigety Fellow
St Mary's City, MD

Research at AAS

The Alternate Encyclopedia (1995-2009)


About the Fellow

Revisionist in method and paradoxically concrete and ephemeral, Johnson’s work is situated at the intersection of art, science and popular culture. Works combine installation, painting, drawing, printmaking, photography, found objects and artist books to create plausible fictions that run both parallel and counter to canonical histories. Projects focus on topics that include; the origins of museums, cabinets of curiosities and “lost” collections, the picturing of Nature and women, the domestic universe and consumer culture – and collectively, defy easy categorization.

Often invited by museums and university galleries to develop research-based exhibition and intervention projects, she has collaborated with the Pitt-Rivers Museum (University of Oxford, UK), The Rosenbach Museum and Library (Philadelphia, PA), Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum (Salisbury, UK), and the American Philosophical Society Museum (Philadelphia, PA). Installations range from Johnson’s first project which created an immersive pseudo-scientific semi-circular image of planetary movement (Phobos, 1983) to an always site-specific quasi-authentic museum of cultured-natural history (The Alternate Encyclopedia, 1995-2009) to a more recent project that recreates a Kodachrome view of the mid-20th century’s world of abundance, convenience and planned obsolescence (Ready-Made Dream, 2013-18). Her current project, Hall of Portraits from The History of Machines (2016 - on-going) focuses on objects of desire by proposing an alternate pictorial history that imagines the cultural evolution of the modern female form as conjoined with objects of domestic convenience, efficiency and planned obsolescence. Alternately and like all the installation projects, studio-based works study and organize objects of desire, merging the anthropomorphic nature of recognizable things with the disquieting pictorial language of ‘vanitas’.

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