Adele Johnson grew up in Georgia as an avid reader who loved to read National Geographic. One magazine in particular made a mark on the young girl as it spoke about King Tut’s tomb with its collection of the intricate gold jewelry.
“That magazine was dog eared, because I must have looked at it a hundred times,” said Johnson, who will be one of two featured artists at the Redlands Art Association at its gallery starting on Saturday. “I just was fascinated.”
Johnson joins landscape artist Athene Johnston as the featured artists whose work will be on display from Saturday, March 14, through Friday, April 3, at the Redlands Art Association Gallery.
Adele Johnson’s fascination with history continued on into college, especially Greek and Roman, which can be seen in her art pieces. She worked after college as a flight attendant and has visited many places around the world. Seventeen years ago, a series of trips to China with her husband kick-started her jewelry making.
During these trips, she would visit warehouses for freshwater pearl vendors and ended up building quite a collection. Pieces she makes today often still include some of these precious pearls, although Johnson emphasizes, “They are not like your grandmother’s pearls.”
Johnson took classes from Santa Monica to Indio to learn wire wrapping, chain making, soldering and stone setting to learn the correct techniques to work with gems and metals for the sophisticated details. Her husband’s work for the World Health Organization brought them to Geneva, Switzerland, for a while where Johnson learned how to judge gems’ quality and took a course in jewelry history.
“We didn’t have a car in Switzerland, so I walked to the Old Town a few times a week and there’s this great old building that had a bust of a man, I wouldn’t call him a gargoyle, but he looked just like that and I named him Hugo,” she said, “so I made this necklace based on Hugo, that I used to pass every day and I would always say ‘Hi Hugo.” Johnson’s art both encompasses the classic style inspired by history and architecture, but also bigger statement pieces that are more creative and modern.
Her style has evolved from a more symmetrical viewpoint to encompassing different shapes. For some of the classic pieces, she likens it to “the feeling of like you just dug it up from the ground in Athens.”
One time a lady, who seemed kind of quiet and delicate bought one of the bigger and bolder statement pieces from Johnson to wear to a class reunion, “She said to me, ‘This is so out of character for me, but by gumby I’m gonna make a splash!’ And I am pretty sure, she did.” She likes to assist at weddings with custom-made jewelry. In one such instance she made a jewelry line for the bride, the mother, the mother-in-law and the bridesmaids.
“It made me happy that they were so happy with the jewelry,” Johnson said.
Johnson and her family have lived in Redlands for 20 years. She has been a member of Redlands Art Association for about 15 years and was delighted to see how the Redlands art scene encourages local artists. “I try to always have something on display at the Redlands Art Association,” Johnson said.
Art for Heaven’s Sake and Art in the Park are the two local art shows Adele Johnson enjoys the most. She has also been invited to and participated in the Southwest Arts Festival in Indio and the Indian Wells Arts Festival, both of which are juried shows.
Redlands Art Association
The paintings of Athene Johnston and jewelry by Adele Johnson: On display at the Redlands Art Association gallery on State Street from Saturday, March 14, through Friday, April 3.
Reception: 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday, March 14.
Gallery hours: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Open until 8 p.m. on Thursday Market Nights.
Where: 215 E. State St., Redlands
For more information: Visit redlands-art.org or call (909) 792-8345.