Local painter gaining foothold in New York City galleries
Carmel artist Mary Johnston has exhibited her contemporary landscape paintings in art shows stretching across the country from New York to New Mexico. She received personal requests to return for events such as the Harding Art Show in Nashville, Tenn., the St. Charles Fine Art Show in Illinois and the South University Show in Ann Arbor, Mich.
But when Spectrum New York invited her to be a spotlight artist at the new Javits Center, Johnston was surprised. The exhibitor committee of Spectrum’s juried art fair usually requires mid-career artists of national and international recognition to submit a portfolio for review.
Spectrum utilizes the expertise of a committee of art industry professionals with outstanding reputations in publishing and artist development. The committee reviews an artist’s previous three years’ work experience with galleries and trade buyers to determine eligibility to participate in a Spectrum exhibit.
“Under Mary’s paintbrush, canvases come to life with vibrant sunsets, shimmering trees and billowing cloudscapes,” Spectrum said of Johnston’s work. “Her palette is bright and bold, inviting viewers to experience the shapes and textures in an all-new, dramatic light.”
“I participated at Art Expo in New York City last March as a solo artist,” Johnston said.
Redwood Media Group managed the expo and witnessed her work’s audience appeal.
“They asked me to participate in what they considered their higher-end show premiering at the Javits,” she said. “Getting picked as one of their spotlight artists was an honor. The group loved my work and knew I had done well at Art Expo.”
Johnston grew up in Minnesota visiting the Tweed Museum of Arts for inspiration. Through the years, the Great Lakes region continued to play a pivotal role in her work. Her current landscapes portray the open country of the Midwest with attention to mood and prismatic color.
Johnston prefers to work in her Carmel studio, but sketches and captures outdoor scenes with photos for future pieces. Recent inspirations have occurred during stays in her Eagle Lake cabin in Wisconsin.
As a Hoosier, she said she doesn’t like to play favorites but, “The Indianapolis Museum of Art is a treasure. The last time I was there I finally was able to walk through the sculpture gardens.”
“And, the Eiteljorg holds simply an amazing collection of Western art,” she added. “I love to take visitors to both those places.”
“There are times when all I want to do is go somewhere and look at the scenery,” she said.
A recent New Mexico trip for two art shows germinated new ideas. “I even did a show in New Buffalo, Mich., this summer with the hopes of taking some great Lake Michigan shots and getting a feel for that part of the U.S.”
Growing her business
Many of Johnston’s commissioned pieces are displayed in healthcare settings. She said she feels this is due to the peaceful, serene nature of her work.
To create a commissioned piece, Johnston visits the future display space.
“I see and take in everything around the space, “she said. “I notice other colors, objects, types of furniture.”
Sometimes a client will send photos of the space and reference one of her existing pieces as a jumping point.
Johnston’s earlier career in New Jersey focused on realistic watercolors and botanical works before she adopted faux-painting techniques in 1998 when it came into vogue.
After her husband’s job transfer relocated the family to Indiana, Johnston said she needed to find her artistic self again.
“(Taking oil panting classes with Magdalena Hoyos-Segovia) gave me the ability to create the really large pieces I do now,” Johnston said.
Segovia owns Magdalena Gallery of Art and founded the Carmel Academy of the Arts.
“I have worked very hard to grow this business,” Johnston said.