Hall of Portraits from The History of Machines – Sue Johnson

On View: March 20th – June 6th

New Works from Hall of Portraits from The History of Machines 

Workhouse Arts Center is pleased to present New Works from Hall of Portraits from The History of  Machines, by artist Sue Johnson. The exhibition is guest curated by Jaynelle Hazard, presented in partnership with the Lucy Burns Museum, and will be on view in the McGuireWoods Gallery from March 20  through June 6, 2021. 

“Mining the archive is like building a time machine; I look at the material culture of the past as a way of understanding what has come into being in our contemporary times.” – Sue Johnson

Hall of Portraits from The History of Machines proposes an alternate pictorial history rooted in the mid-20th century where Johnson explores the evolution of the modern woman. Her work exposes parallels in the cornerstone moment when women began to be idealized for machine-like efficiency and when industrial progress envisioned domestic machines, such as vacuum cleaners, sewing machines, dishwashers, and telephones to provide labor-saving solutions. Drawing on a collection of vintage advertisements and editorial fashion pages, Johnson merges commodification with objectification by melding household convenience objects with the emergent female form; in result, creating a dream-like experience that transports the viewer into a world full of hybrid women provocatively suspended in mid-transformation. 

Johnson’s work is imbued with historical references. Traditionally a “hall of portraits” is known to showcase families or a country’s famous heroes. In those portraits, the sitter is often surrounded by objects associated with their attributes. A “history of machines” typically depicts mechanical objects in such a way that makes them attractive to a customer, while showing progress and innovation. Combining the two terms in the project’s title adds a layer to the unsettling amalgamation of women with inanimate objects. 

The portraits begin as original, digital collages that combine sources from mid-century advertisements and photographs of vintage objects. The collages are then commercially printed onto canvas followed with hand-painted layers of acrylic paint. Images of the new women are purposely not painted in  Johnson’s own hand but rather are constructed from a combination of photographic sources to retain the authenticity of the source material. The color-fields that surround each portrait are achieved by imprinting everyday household objects such as paper towels, coffee filters, and household textiles into the paint to create a conceptual windowpane. 

The intention of color extends into the exhibition environment where shades of mauve purple, gold, and white signal the significance of the Women’s Suffrage Movement and the 100th anniversary of the 19th  amendment ratification celebrated last year. Popular colors of mid-century modern appliances are also referenced through the specific use of harvest gold, turquoise blue, and avocado green. 

New Works from Hall of Portraits from The History of Machines serves as a visual satire for constructive social criticism. The archival materials and objects, though mostly made between 1940 and 1970, have contemporary relevance. Johnson’s implication of superhumanity holds irony and explores a narrative in which women have been constructed to be both the consumer and the consumed. By exploring the power of the woman and how they have shaped history, the exhibition aims to inspire and contribute toward an ever-changing, forward-looking future.

“This exhibit of Sue Johnson’s work provides a thought-provoking juxtaposition to the women’s experiences found at Lucy Burns Museum here at the Workhouse Arts Center. When seen together, I can feel the growing, morphing, and expanding roles of women right now and over time,” adds Lura Bovee, Workhouse Board Member.



		

For purchase inquiries, please contact Gallery Manager, Audrey Miller at audreymiller@workhousearts.org or (703) 584-2911.

"Traveler" by Sue Johnson

2020

Acrylic painting over artist’s print on canvas

59” x 42”

"Ready-Maid" by Sue Johnson

2020

Acrylic painting over artist’s print on canvas with imprinting from Sparkle brand paper towels and Brew-Rite coffee filters

59” x 42”

"Neo-Gradiva" by Sue Johnson

2020

Acrylic painting over artist’s print on canvas with use of window cleaning squeegee

59” x 42”

"(I am) Not an Iron" by Sue Johnson

2020

Acrylic painting over artist’s print on canvas with pattern created by DIY faux wood graining tool

59” x 42”

"Briinng" by Sue Johnson

2020

Acrylic painting over artist’s print on canvas with imprinting from generic brand of paper towels

59” x 42”

"Self-Erasing Woman" by Sue Johnson

2020

Acrylic painting over artist’s print on canvas with imprinting from texture of daisy pattern stretchy fabric

59” x 42”

"Regina" by Sue Johnson

2020

Acrylic painting over artist’s print on canvas with shapes derived from the contours of a Bundt pan and imprinting from generic brand of paper towels

59″ x 42″

"Push Button" by Sue Johnson

2020

Acrylic painting over artist’s print on canvas with imprinting from generic brand of paper towels

59” x 42”

"Pyrexa, Sister of Ready-Maid" by Sue Johnson

2020

Acrylic painting over artist’s print on canvas with imprinting from Amazon brand Presto paper towels

59” x 42”

"Perki" by Sue Johnson

2020

Acrylic painting over artist’s print on canvas with imprinting from Brawny brand paper towels

59” x 42”

"Neo-Hobble Skirt" by Sue Johnson

2021

Acrylic painting over artist’s print on canvas with imprinting from Bounty paper towels (new 2020 pattern) and pattern from embossed hand towel

59” x 42″

"Mixie" by Sue Johnson

2020

Acrylic painting over artist’s print on canvas with imprinting from roll of vinyl shelf lining and bubble wrap

59” x 42”

"Bride" by Sue Johnson

2020

Acrylic painting over artist’s print on canvas with imprinting from Brawny brand paper towels

59” x 42”

"Hooverette" by Sue Johnson

2020

Acrylic painting over artist’s print on canvas with imprinting from generic brand of paper towels

59” x 42”

"Home Light" by Sue Johnson

2021

Acrylic painting over artist’s print on canvas with imprinting from vinyl shelf lining material

59” x 42”

"Dishy" by Sue Johnson

2020

Acrylic painting over artist’s print on canvas with imprinting from Publix Everyday brand paper towels

59” x 42”

"Cloth-O Descending" by Sue Johnson

2020

Acrylic painting over artist’s print on canvas with use of window cleaning squeegee

59” x 42”

"CinderBrill-O" by Sue Johnson

2020
Acrylic painting over artist’s print on canvas with imprinting from Bounty brand paper towels
59″ x 42″

"Vanishing Woman" by Sue Johnson

2020
Acrylic painting over artist’s print on canvas with imprinting from vinyl window screening
59″ x 42″

“Voom” by Sue Johnson

2020

Acrylic painting over artist’s print on canvas with imprinting from anonymously authored embroidery

59” x 42”

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