Mary A. Johnson

Emperor of the Double Rosette
30″x17.7″(at largest); emperor rice dye, blue cabbage dye, various organic materials, rice paper, and inkjet prints on paper; 2017

Mary A. Johnson
Beijing, China


Food is the primary medium to connect to the viewers’ corporeality in my work. It’s ability to be at once both sensual and revolting is a direct result of its connection to the mouth, the stomach, and the mind.

The images I use in my collage are taken and altered from still lives I build in my studio and allow to rest in their decomposing juices. Velvet and hair-like molds encapsulate swaths of the construction, and flesh and innards alike sag.

Additionally, the subject becomes the object and directly useful in the creation of its own image. Jars of organic dyes are created from rice, berries, bark or freshly bleeding beets. The still life itself can grow and seep upon the paper, spilling its insides and drying in muted pools or sticky clumps.

Organic materials, combined with digital images of a visibly aging subject, synthetic pigments, and other drawing materials, create a space in which it is difficult to determine what is what. Is that the guts of a fish, or the seeping sores of human skin, or the bitten inside of a peach? Is that paint, or the slowly cooked juices of a deep black rice, or wine, or blood?

The resulting work is the product of a very natural and real process–decay, presented through a very constructed and theatrical lens. The images are at once familiar and unfamiliar–experienced, seen, and thrust into the imagination.


Mary A. Johnson is an American artist who lives and works in Beijing. She has a BA in Fine Art: Painting from Gordon College and an MFA from the State University of New York, Buffalo.

She creates work using organic materials and digital images; reminiscent of petri dishes, forgotten refrigerators, and Flemish still lives. Her work engages the gaps between the repulsive and the seductive; the image and experience.

She has shown her work in the United States and China. Her work is in numerous private collections. Recently, she was invited to participate in ArtNova’s “100” Exhibition at the Agricultural Exhibition Center in Beijing and to be a part of the Snow Mountain Artist Residency in Lijiang, the UNESCO World Heritage site in China’s Yunnan Province.

She is a full time Lecturer at the China Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA).


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Larval Wreath
27.4″x23″ (at largest); emperor rice dye, blue cabbage dye, colored pencil, rice paper, and inkjet prints on paper; 2017

Caulifloric Cordycepts
13.4″x21.7″; logwood/bloodwood dye, emperor rice dye, blue cabbage dye, black tea, synthetic pigment and acrylic, ink, and inkjet prints on paper; 2017

Simultaneous Ranunculus Protrusion
9.4″x6.7″; emperor rice dye, synthetic pigment and acrylic, inkjet prints on rice paper and collage on paper; 2017

Tablescape of Liver and Silver
24.6″x7.5″ (at largest); emperor rice dye, blue cabbage dye, rice and metallic papers, and ink jet prints on paper; 2017