Joyce Johnson died on April 9, 2014, surrounded by friends as she had been in life.
Ms. Johnson started carving in wood when she was about 10 years old. It was her first love and continued to be although she also worked in clay, direct plaster and other materials to be reproduced in bronze.
She spent most of her early childhood in Concord, Massachusetts, and there developed a passion for literature and writing inspired by the many literary figures that lived in that historic town during the 19th century. Uncertain about what profession she wished to pursue, she went to Madrid, Spain, when she was 26 and became enraptured with the country, remaining there for two years. She began to study sculpture seriously with one of Spain's most respected sculptors, Don Ramon Mateu, who encouraged her to return to America to continue her studies. She was accepted at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston from which she graduated with honors in 1962 and completed a graduate teaching fellowship there the following year. While at the Museum School she studied with Peter Abate and Harold Tovish. She was also influenced by Marino Marini, Constantin Brancusi, Alexander Archipenko, and Barbara Hepworth.
Ms. Johnson returned to the family home in North Eastham, starting the School of Sculpture there that evolved into Truro Center for the Arts at Castle Hill. As Castle Hill's founder and first president and director, she directed the Center for 10 years, turning over the nonprofit educational institution to a membership-elected board in order to have more time for sculpture.
She wrote for the Provincetown Advocate, Cape Codder and Barnstable Patriot. She also produced an oral history program, "The Sands of Time," on WOMR-FM in Provincetown and taught sculpture at Castle Hill where she served on the Board of Directors. She was a founder of the Peaked Hill Trust and helped to preserve the historic Provincelands dune shacks in the Cape Cod National Seashore. Ms. Johnson built her own house in Truro where she lived many months of each year without running water or electricity.
Ms. Johnson maintained her sculpture studio in North Eastham and taught privately. She had numerous one-person shows including at the Cape Cod Museum of Art in Dennis, Provincetown Art Association and Museum in Provincetown, Cape Cod Conservatory in West Barnstable, Truro Center for the Arts in Truro, Cushing Academy in Ashburnham, Amherst College in Woodstock, Connecticut, Addison Art Gallery in Orleans, and Wellfleet Art Gallery in Wellfleet. Her work has been included in group shows including the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Cape Cod Museum of Art, Provincetown Art Association and Museum, Addison Art Gallery, Ethel Putterman Gallery 8 in Orleans, and Tanzer Gallery in New York City.
In 2013, the Arts Foundation of Cape Cod presented her with the Lifetime Achievement Award. In October, 2014, she was posthumously honored with the Award for Artistic Excellence at the Provincetown Art Association and Museum's 100th Anniversary Gala. Ms. Johnson has received reviews in the New York Review, American Art Collector magazine, Cape Cod Times, Cape Arts and Boston Globe, among others. She was commissioned for public sculptures for Probus Gardens in Cornwall, England, and at High Head public lands in North Truro.
“Tracking the inspiration for a single work of art or a series could be a formidable task. Involved may be the conscious, unconscious, observation and random or specific thought. For myself, I could only agree that my habitat, experimentation and visual impacts have much to do with what and how I create and that the choice of a rural seaside environment in which I live was not by chance. I am especially lured to usually sublime ocean and dunes and excited by the endless changes in those visions that can pass like a moving camera, exciting me, calming me, and sending me to a meditative source from which works of art emerge.”