Walton Arts Center Presents Visual Art Exhibitions by Sue Johnson and Jennifer Levonian in the Joy Pratt Markham Gallery

Walton Arts Center is pleased to present two concurrent art exhibitions: Sue Johnson: Ready-Made Dream, an installation of found objects and printed images on vinyl, and Jennifer Levonian: Her Slip is Showing and Other Stories, a series of stop-action video animations created from numerous drawings and watercolors. Sue Johnson and Jennifer Levonian have received national recognition for their entertaining commentaries that look both critically and affectionately at the way we envision our domestic lives. Both Levonian's videos and Johnson's installations share a wry sense of humor. Like contemporary comedians David Sedaris and Jon Stewart, they simultaneously celebrate American values and critique the aspects of our culture that reflect excess superficiality, disparity, or disingenuousness.

The exhibitions will take place in Joy Pratt Markham Gallery Thursday, April 9 through Monday, June 1, 2015. 

Joy Pratt Markham Gallery Hours:
Monday-Friday, 9 am to 6 pm
Saturday, noon to 4 pm
One hour prior to most performances
Gallery admission is FREE

Sue Johnson's American Dreamscape series features digitally collaged domestic interiors printed on 10-foot-tall vinyl panels, some measuring more than 30 feet long, including a "dream" kitchen, replete with the type of gadgets and appliances that became popular after WWII. Johnson has long been fascinated with consumer products and designs that became emblems of post-war security, prosperity and affluence. She looks not only at technological innovations and designs, but also the corresponding aesthetics that helped people associate technology with ease and comfort instead of war. For example, Living Room with a View of Infinity depicts an inviting easy chair on a plush carpet facing a reproduction of Constantin Brâncusi's Endless Column, an icon of modernist art and emblem of sophistication and wealth. Through such works, Johnson focuses our attention on the objects that have shaped popular notions of "the American dream."

Considering such 1950s domestic scenes from the distance of more than half a century, Johnson also invites us to consider the changing meaning of objects over time. Representing spacious rooms on flat stage scrims, she evokes a way of life that has been idealized and satirized. By printing her images on vinyl that is used for large-scale advertising, she blends notions of high and low, public and domestic, and reminds us of the disposable nature of most consumer goods. As Johnson notes, Ready-Made Dream is a contemporary updating of the vanitas painting tradition in which symbolic objects remind the viewer of the transitory nature of life and the folly of overemphasizing worldly goods. She also integrates elements of both trompe l'oeil realism and stage scenery, traditions that encourage us to envision alternate realities while also becoming more aware of the ways in which artifice and stagecraft, in all its forms, can profoundly shape our perceptions.

Born in San Francisco, California, Sue Johnson earned a BFA in Painting from Syracuse University and an MFA in Painting from Columbia University. Her work has been the subject of over thirty one-person exhibitions at venues that include the Tweed Museum of Art, Eleanor D. Wilson Museum of Hollins University, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Pitt Rivers Museum, Midwest Museum of American Art and the University of Richmond Museums. She has been awarded grants from the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts/Mid Atlantic Foundation, the New Jersey State Council on the Arts and four Individual Artist Awards from the Maryland State Arts Council. Her many fellowship awards include residencies at the Arts/Industry Program, John Michael Kohler Art Center; Mac Dowell Colony; Millay Colony; City of Salzburg/Salzburg Kunstlerhaus Residency Fellowship; Scuola Internazionale di Grafica Venezia and the Jentel Foundation. Johnson was also scholar in residence at the Centre for Medieval & Renaissance Studies in Oxford, England and a Visiting Artist at the American Academy in Rome. Her work is held in numerous public collections including MOMA/Franklin Furnace Archive; Yale University Libraries, U.S. Embassy Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina; Smithsonian American Art Museum Libraries and the Maier Museum of Art. Johnson is professor of art in the Department of Art & Art History at St. Mary's College of Maryland, where she is also the Coordinator of the Environmental Studies Program and serves as Director of the Artist House Residency Programs.

Jennifer Levonian is a stop-action animator whose hand-drawn images provide satirical perspectives on issues ranging from gentrification and materialism to joblessness, life's turning points and alienation. Levonian's watercolors are disarmingly simple. She purposefully stylizes the movement of her flat mobile cutouts, encouraging us to look beyond the abundant imagery of street scenes, domestic interiors and consumer goods to imagine the interior worlds of her characters. Her deliberate skewing of perspectives and awkward distortions of anatomy also contribute to the confessional intimacy of her narratives. The halting, staccato pace of her stop-action technique is also perfectly suited to her poignant stories about ordinary people experiencing doubt, vulnerability and unrealized desire.

Born in 1977, Jennifer Levonian received a B.A. in art and Spanish at William and Mary in 1999 and received an M.F.A. in painting from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2006. Her work has been screened and exhibited nationally, including at Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibits; Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.; Sarah Lawrence College, New York; Exit Art, New York; the Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, Ohio; Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, Penn.; and Sante Fe Art Institute, New Mexico. Her work has been exhibited internationally at distinguished venues including the Museum Folkwang, Essen, Germany; Grafisch Atelier, Amsterdam; the Mediteran Film Festival at Kino Mediteran, Hvar, Croatia; Gigant, Outdoor Caravan, Appledorn, Netherlands; SIGGRAPH 2014 and Daytime Select Theater, Vancouver, Canada. Her works have also been televised, most recently on New York’s PBS station, WNET 13. Levonian has also been awarded residencies at Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, Atlantic Center for the Arts, Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture and the Millay Colony for the Arts.

In 2009, she was awarded the Pew Fellowship in the Arts. Previous awards include a Leeway Foundation Window of Opportunity Award and the Juror's Award at the Centennial Video Special, Crawl Space Gallery, Seattle, Wash. Levonian is represented by Fleisher/Ollman Gallery, Philadelphia.