Rest in Peace, Rose Johnson

The Phoenix arts community is still reeling today from news that one of its pioneers, painter and muralist Rose Johnson, 48, died yesterday, Sunday, May 31, at Sanglah General Hospital in Bali. The Jakarta Post is now reporting that Johnson most probably died from acute alcohol poisoning as a result of ingesting liquor that had been laced with methanol. Also known as methyl alcohol or wood spirits, methanol is a toxic form of alcohol that is used industrially in antifreeze, fuel and solvents. The Post also notes that this is the 23rd fatality from the poisonous alcohol mixture in less than 10 days; Johnson was the second foreign fatality attributed to the tainted alcohol, according to the report.

British-born Rose Johnson was a fixture on the Phoenix arts scene for years and had done illustrations for the Phoenix New Times in the past. A gentle, well-loved and respected person, Johnson painted a number of murals in the Phoenix area, but moved to Bisbee, Arizona, in 1998 after a visit to the small-town arts enclave. There she continued to paint her distinctive, fantasy-based figurative work on both canvas and in mural form, including a mural featured in Sunset Magazine, entitled Sleepwalking, on the side of Bisbee's old Jonquil Motel. Trips to Bali had inspired Johnson's most recent work. A videotaped interview with the artist, as well as footage of Johnson in Bali, is available on line.

A special memorial ceremony celebrating Johnson's life and art featuring an exhibition of Rose Johnson's work will be held beginning June 20th at 10 p.m. at the Icehouse, located at 429 South Jackson Street, Phoenix, AZ. There will be a BYOB potluck reception after the ceremony and participants are asked to bring food for this. The exhibition will continue through June 27th until 6 p.m.

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Kathleen Vanesian