In Focus: Merritt Johnson

Art History Lectures

Thursday, November 21, 2019
7:00 – 8:30 pm

Frye Auditorium

Pre-registration for this series has ended. Please see Single Ticket policy below for remaining lectures.

Borders are lies unless they are mountains or water. Weaving & stitching serve as physical embodiments of overlapping & intersecting nature of creation in relation to land/water to their dependents (plant/animal) and to cultures and sociopolitical constructs. Merritt Johnson will share her aesthetic considerations of the layering of the image as engagement with seen and unseen, impossibility and limitation in sight as it relates to our capacities based on lifespan, experience, culture, expectation in connection to land and water.


Merritt Johnson was born in West Baltimore and spent her childhood navigating between trees, tarps, concrete and culture. Johnson’s work is rooted in her experience as a cis-gender pansexual woman of mixed (non-status) Mohawk, Blackfoot and Settler descent. From this perspective, her work, as she states, “asserts agency for mixed bodies, and allegiance with land and water.” Johnson exhibits, performs, speaks and writes independently and collaboratively.

Johnson earned her BFA from Carnegie Mellon University and her MFA from Massachusetts College of Art. For nearly two decades Johnson’s work has navigated spaces between bodies and the body politic, land and culture rooted in and dependent on Anowarakowa Kawennote / Turtle Island, the name given to North America by the Mohawk. She has seen and felt the effects of the tongues, knives and pens that cut apart land, culture, sex, and bodies. She creates work that celebrates connection and builds vision using mixed materials and processes that reflect her mixed heritage: sewing, casting, weaving, drawing, beading, painting, carving, performance, and film. Her works are containers for story, feeling and thought and exercises for existence. Johnson’s work casts light and throws shadow on how and who we are, and on how and who we could be.

Johnson’s work is in many private collections as well as public collections including The Birmingham Museum of Art, Alabama, and The Museum of Contemporary Native Arts, Santa Fe.

Generous support for the program In Focus: Contemporary First Nations and Native American Women Artists and Curators is provided by the Snoqualmie Tribe.

Merritt Johnson, Prayer Mask, Contemporary, handwoven palm fiber, chemical respirator, optical calcite, pine resin, 2017. Image courtesy of artist.


Tickets to individual lectures may be available the day of the lecture on a space-available basis. Standby is first-come, first-served, one hour prior to the lecture. Individual tickets Members: $16; Non-members: $24.


Continuing-education credits and clock hours are available to educators through Seattle Pacific University (SPU). Payments for fees are paid directly to SPU online. All registered participants will receive the necessary information to register one week in advance of the start of the lecture series. Do not include payment for fees with your registration. Lecture Series: $15 for five clock hours.


The Frye Art Museum reserves the right to cancel any lecture series. If the Museum cancels a course or class, a full refund will be issued. If participant cancels enrollment more than two weeks prior to start date, a full refund will be issued, less a $25 processing fee. No refunds issued with less than two weeks’ notice. To cancel registration, call 206 432 8200 between 9 am–5 pm Monday–Friday.