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  • What:  New exhibition “Sue Johnson: The Alternate Encyclopedia”

  • Where:  Tweed Museum of Art, University of Minnesota Duluth

  • When:  Opens January 27, 2004, continues through March 28, 2004

  • Special event:  Lecture on her work by artist Sue Johnson, Tweed Museum of Art. Sue Johnson, Exhibiting artist,


The Tweed Museum of Art, University of Minnesota Duluth is pleased to announce its latest major exhibition:


Sue Johnson:  The Alternate Encyclopedia will open on January 27 and continue through March 28, 2004.  The artist will be present at 6:00 pm on Tuesday, January 27, 2004 to give a presentation about her work, which will be followed by a reception.  The exhibition, lecture and reception are free and open to the public.


     Artist Sue Johnson resides in Lexington Park, Maryland where she is an Associate Professor of Art and Chair of the Department of Art and Art History at St. Mary’s College of Maryland.  Originally trained as a painter, since the early 1990s Johnson has organized her art under the rubric of what she calls The Alternate Encyclopedia.  An ever-expanding combination of paintings, prints, found objects and texts, Johnson’s project appeals to contemporary views in the same way that “cabinets of curiosities” entertained and appealed to people in previous centuries.


     Taking its cues from illustrated “books of knowledge” which organized images and text around generalized areas of human inquiry, The Alternate Encyclopedia wittily examines our way of picturing, describing and archiving nature by combining her own deftly executed prints and watercolors with natural history specimens, and with manufactured goods, toys, decorative housewares and found imagery.  The results are both humorous and serious, as viewers contemplate, for example, the ramifications of a 1960s “Creepy Crawlers” toy in relation to 21st century genetic engineering, or the relationship between “Food Saver” bags and the preservation of museum artifacts. 





     The current version of The Alternate Encyclopedia is organized around five themed “chapters”:  Cultivating Young Minds; Wild Animals I Have Known; The New Wonder World; Scientific American Woman; and Travel and Exploration.  The artist’s prints and watercolors, along with fictitious books, posters and displays of popular and scientific materials are juxtaposed with artifacts on loan from the Minnesota Historical Society, the UMD Department of Biology, the St. Louis County Historical Society, and the artist’s own collections.

     In Sue Johnson’s words, “The Alternate Encyclopedia investigates the process by which we humans understand ourselves both within and separate from nature – how culture has explored, recorded, documented and pictured the natural world.  The Alternate Encyclopedia creates a parallel universe of pictorial knowledge based on historical sources and contemporary issues in the study of natural history by imagining lost manuscripts, pondering evolutionary paths that could well emerge, and picturing our human impulse to capture, collect, name, tame, dominate and recreate nature….Ironic and humorous, nostalgic and documentary, the interwoven network of artworks and objects that comprise The Alternate Encyclopedia reflects past and contemporary cultural ideas about wild and tamed nature.”

     The exhibition will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue with poetry by Camille Norton and an interview with Sue Johnson by Tweed Museum of Art curator Peter Spooner.



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