Photo credit: Sharona Jacobs 


These days bring an urgent call to account for my life on this fierce and beautiful earth. Painting’s always been the means for me to answer this call by taking the measure of our common passage through it.

This preoccupation began for me as a child at the seashore with its marvels that could be picked up and held. I assumed the entrancing life I found there would lead me into the hard measurable sciences. But I came to understand the ocean embodied more -  mysteries and feelings that went beyond its’ miraculous creatures.

Painting is the way I pick up and examine things in the physical world in order to reach for something larger that I suspect lies beneath its storied surface. 

Bradford Johnson

Somerville, MA 2019


A wonderful review of recent show from my colleage and friend Bruce Herman:

Bradford Johnson has been painting now for nearly three decades and has exhibited extensively in both solo and group exhibitions—garnering acknowledgements and awards from such prestigious organizations as the Pollock-Krasner Foundation and MacDowell Artist Colony. Throughout this time he has focused in an unembarrassed way on major religious and humanistic themes—often called “first-level” questions: who are we, where do we come from, why are we here, what has gone wrong, where are we going? Artists and philosophers have been asking these things since the beginning of human community—and more recently have posed even more poignant queries: why are we perpetually at war, why is there such suffering if there is a good God. Why?


In Johnson’s work there seems always to be element of immanent danger and potential or actual disaster. Images of wrecked zeppelins, ships, airplanes, and balloons alongside ordinary human activities; indicators of aspiration and failure, calamity and hope—and all of Johnson’s paintings seem overlaid with time and memory. His work participates directly and indirectly in the vanitas tradition—in which images point toward our finitude, our mortality, and the vanity of overweening human ambitions. Yet Johnson’s paintings are never preachy—never didactic…always allusive and multi-layered, they are open to multiple interpretations. 


In the current exhibition there is plenty of the above: disaster, tragedy, radical contingency, and a sustained meditation on the fragility and brevity of life, particularly as it is lived out for others: in the example of Nate Saint, Jim Elliot and Edward McCully - revered members of the Wheaton community as missionaries who were considered as martyrs for the Christian faith. But there is also a surprise element we’ve never seen before in this artist’s oeuvre: images of popular culture, commercial brands, poster art and movie stills, oddments of the entertainment industry and ephemera of a particular time period: all from the years surrounding the killing of Elliot, Saint et al by the Auca (known as The Huaorani) the potentially jarring juxtaposition of home-movie footage stills, personal photos, grainy news images, and pop-culture signs—all of this jumbled together gives the viewer an unexpected sense of timelessness in the midst of very particular time-bound moments. It is as though we become strangers to our own lives as we see time and eternity mix and separate.


Without a single religious platitude and without resorting to propaganda of any sort, the artist moves us into a receptive space—ready to see how God’s work is accomplished in the silences, in the caesuras, in the seemingly meaningless gaps between clear narrative and random image. We see an entire era through a haze of pictures and yet gain insight into a particular life through the artist’s sure touch—seeing finally that the drama of a martyr’s tale is most honestly glimpsed in the flux of ordinary time: God with us in the humdrum and workaday. And alongside those we think to call martyrs or fools we become saints and strangers in the unfolding tableaux—working out our salvation with fear and trembling in the passing moments.

 Bruce Herman,  

Gloucester, September 2015



1994 Hunter College, NYC -MFA 

1987 Wheaton College, IL - BA

1981 Rhode Island School of Design, RI



2002 Yaddo, Inc., Saratoga Springs, NY - residency

2001 Yaddo, Inc., Saratoga Springs, NY - residency

2000 Yaddo, Inc., Saratoga Springs, NY - residency

1998 The Pollock-Krasner Foundation, Inc. - grant

1998 Yaddo, Inc., Saratoga Springs, NY - residency

1996 Yaddo, Inc., Saratoga Springs, NY - residency

1995 MacDowell, Peterborough, NH - residency



2017 Year of the Monster, Barrington Gallery Gordon College, Wenham MA

2015 Bodies in a River, John Walford Galleries, Wheaton College, IL 

2014 Spaces Between the Splendor, UniLu Gallery, Cambridge MA

2011 Tangible Dreams of a Dying Explorer, BCA Gallery, Gordon College, Wenham, MA



2017 WordPlay, Gallery Blink

2016 Print Gallery Blink

2016 Nowhere Now Here, Thompson Gallery, Cambridge Sch. of Weston, Weston MA

2014 Milton Art Museum, Group Show, Canton, MA

2013 Reyonlds Art Gallery, Small Works, New Haven CT 

2012 Reynolds Gallery Vista: A Study of the Land, New Haven CT 

2012 Bromfield Gallery, Boston MA

2012 To Extremes, Public Art in a Changing World, MIT Cambridge, MA 

2007 Tufts University Art Gallery, 4th Annual Summer Exhibition, Medford, MA

2004 GJA Gallery, Regarding What's Past, Chicago, IL

2004 Mills Gallery, BCA, The Drawing Show, Boston, MA

2004 Bernard Toale Gallery, The Boston Drawing Project, Boston, MA



Weekend America National Public Radio, January 22, 2005

Chelsea Mertz The Library as an Art Source
Lippincott, Robin Painting Past Photographs, A portfolio by Bradford Johnson 
The Paris Review [Spring 2004, pg 161, number 168]

Millis, Christopher Smash Hits, BCA 18th Annual Drawing Show
The Boston Phoenix [February 13, 2004, pg12]

Camper, Fred Messages in the Medium
The Chicago Reader [August 9, 2002, pg. 20 vol.30 no. 45] 
1 reproduction

Weinstein, Michael. Vanishing Point, the Elusive Image
New City, [July 27, 2002 vol. 17, no.738]