Mary Frisbee Johnson (MFA, University of Cincinnati), a native of Montana, currently serves as Professor of Drawing at the University of Northern Iowa-Cedar Falls. She is the author of a foundations textbook, Visual Workouts: A Collection of Artmaking Problems, published by Prentice-Hall, Inc. Writing as Mary Frisbee, she is the author of three mystery novels (see MaryFrisbee.com).
Mary Frisbee Johnson's work in drawing, metals/jewelry, mixed-media sculpture, and installation sculpture has been exhibited extensively in over one hundred national and international exhibitions, including twenty-one solo exhibitions, and her work is in the collection of the British Museum, London, England.
Recent exhibitions include:
2016 - Solo exhibition. Cartouche, Appalachian Center for Craft, Tennessee Tech, Smithville, TN. January - March 2016.
2015 - Juried national exhibition. Wichita National All Media Craft Exhibition 2015. Wichita Center for the Arts, Wichita, KS. 2nd Place Award.
2015 - Juried national exhibition, Create/Adorn National Exhibition of Contemporary Jewelry and Metalwork, Delurk Gallery, Winston-Salem, NC.
2015 - Invitational speakers' exhibition, Material Matters, Jenkins Fine Arts Center, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC.
2015 - Group exhibition, on-line, Tales From The Toolbox, Crafthaus.com
2014 - Juried international exhibition, Reliquary Redux. Jenkins Fine Arts Center, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC
2013 - La Frontera international metals exhibition, Museo Franz Mayer, Mexico City and Velvet da Vinci Gallery, San Francisco, CA. Fine Contemporary Craft, Artspace, Raleigh, NC. Ferrous international metals exhibition, Velvet da Vinci Gallery, San Francisco, CA and 18 Karat Gallery, Toronto, Canada.
2012 - Treasured: honoring precious and vanishing worlds, Annmarie Sculpture Gardens and Art Center, Solomons, MD. Drawing Discourse, 3rd Annual Exhibition in Contemporary Drawing, S. Tucker Cooke Gallery, University of North Carolina-Asheville.
2011 - Third Iowa Metal Guild Exhibition, LUX Center for the Arts, Lincoln, NE and Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, Cedar Rapids, IA. Seriously Funny, Woman Made Gallery, Chicago, IL.
2010 - Creative Adaptation in the Visual Arts, Kreft Center for the Arts, Concordia University, Ann Arbor, MI.
2009 - Second Iowa Metals Guild Exhibition. Art Salon, Figge Museum of Art, Davenport, IA.
2008 - Solo exhibition, New Works in Tin and Silver, Appalachian Center for Craft, Tennessee Tech University, Smithville, TN. Pop Culture Collision, Shaw Jewelry, Northeast Harbor, ME. The First Iowa Metals Guild Exhibition, Herzen State Pedagogical University of Russia, Saint Petersburg, Russia.
2006-07 - Craft Biennial: A Review of Northwest Art and Craft, Oregon College of Art and Craft, Portland, OR. International invitational group exhibition, Anti-War Medals Traveling Exhibition (curated by Velvet da Vinci Gallery), which traveled extensively in the United States and Europe. 100 Brooches (from the book 500 Brooches) curated by Velvet da Vinci which traveled to galleries around the US. Secret Identities: Intriguing Wearable Art, Gallery M.I.M., Baltimore, MD. The Game Show, juried group exhibition at Portland Contemporary Craft Museum, Portland, OR.
2006 - 25th Smithsonian Crafts Show. The Building Museum, Washington, DC.
(Complete exhibition record available by request.)
Selected publications featuring her artwork include:
Snyder, Jeffrey B. Art Jewelry Today 3. Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing, 2011.
Snyder, Jeffrey B. Art Jewelry Today 2. Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing, 2008.
Little, Carl. 2007 Smithsonian Craft Show, Ornament magazine, March, 2007.
Simon, Marjorie. 500 Brooches. NY: Lark Books, 2005.
Enstice, Wayne and Melody Peters. Drawing: Space, Form, and Expression, 3rd ed.
Prentice-Hall, Inc., 2003.
Artist's Statement: Mary Frisbee Johnson
I fabricate jewelry primarily from sterling silver, though I also use copper, brass, and nickel in order to explore the broad range of color and surface treatments possible with etching, patinas, and drawing treatments. My images come from lithographed tin, cut from found containers and toys. Collecting, collating, and researching lithographed tin images constitutes a huge part of my work. I delight in my finds, often hoarding a single image for years until I have the perfect brooch in which to showcase my treasure.
Each brooch is a small, complex sculpture depicting a narrative. The basic construction can be thought of as a 'sandwich' - a lithographed tin image is cut out and placed between two layers of metal cut into shapes. These are laminated together with miniature rivets or bolts.
For the past forty years years, my work in mixed-media art (including metalsmithing, installation sculpture, small mixed-media sculpture, drawing, and painting) has been narrative in nature, a constantly-evolving exploration of story-telling through visual images. Some works have been straightforward depictions of stories, others have explored the use of symbols and text, still others are more akin to poetry. Each body of work is an investigation of a new variation on the narrative theme, a concept endlessly fascinating to me in artmaking.
My metalwork grows out of many years of exploring the connotations and symbolic qualities of images and how they can be combined successfully to convey meaning. The aspect of narrative artmaking that interests me most is the use of objects as metaphors in telling a story or exploring an issue. I am seldom interested in directly depicting events literally, but prefer to utilize the various meanings of objects more symbolically. Humor also plays a large part in my work.
While I have made earrings, necklaces, and bracelets, it is the brooch that I return to again and again; a pin is such a perfect little billboard for expressing an idea or belief, giving off a vibe or seeking a reaction. Any brooch I fabricate is a tiny relief sculpture, and I am equally happy seeing it displayed in a well-designed box or worn on a jacket.