Celebrations of the Life and Work of Artist Rose Johnson Abound Throughout State

It seems that artist Rose Johnson, who died tragically in Bali on Sunday, Arizona time, as a result of alcohol adulterated with deadly methanol, touched the lives of those around her wherever she happened to be. Facebook is still buzzing over news of the artist's bizarre death at the age of 48, with fans of Johnson the world over posting photos of both her and her work, as well as comments detailing personal memories they have of the irrepressible woman who started as a performance artist in Phoenix. Subsequently, she became known for her free-flowing canvases and exuberant neighborhood murals, some of which still can be seen in Phoenix.

A small candlelight memorial was held Tuesday evening in front of the mural Johnson had painted on the Mercer Mortuary building on the southwest corner of 16th Street and Thomas Road back in 1998. According to longtime friend Kim Blake, while people were creating a shrine with flowers and candles in front of the neighborhood mural (reported on by the New Times back in 1998), Rene Barraza, owner of Deportes America, a sporting goods store across the street from Johnson's mural, visited with the group: "He came out and told us about helping Rose spell the words on the mural that were in Spanish. She painted it in '98 with some neighbor kids before she moved to Bisbee."

Speaking of Bisbee, flowers, candles and notes are also being left at the mural Johnson painted on the wall of the town's Jonquil Motel. The artist, who in her last days sported blond dreadlocks, moved to the small arts-based community, once a thriving copper mining town, in the late 1990's and made her distinctive mark there, as well. Photographer Terry Wolf, one of her Bisbee buds, has announced that this Sunday, June 10 at 5 p.m. a Life Celebration/Party for Rose Johnson will be held at Mimosa Market, located at 215 Brewery Ave in Bisbee's Historic District, (520) 432-3256. Plans are also in the works for a celebratory parade in Johnson's honor in the next few weeks, with details to be announced later. Meanwhile, Phoenix will be throwing their own celebratory memorial for the deceased artist at the Icehouse in downtown Phoenix on June 20, beginning at 10 p.m., with an exhibition of work lent by collectors and friends to run through June 27th.

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Kathleen Vanesian