Portrait of Christ
Anderson Johnson (1915-1998) was born in Lunenberg County, VA. Unable to attend school regularly, he taught himself to read by studying the Bible. At the age of eight he had a religious vision while working in his father's cornfield and decided to become a minister. Johnson began to preach at various churches, and by age sixteen had his own congregation at a small church in New Jersey. According to Alice Rae Yelen's book Passionate Visions of the American South, Johnson was stricken by a paralyzing illness in the early 1970s. He recovered and decided to convert his home in Newport News, VA, into a mission. He decorated the first floor of his house from floor to ceiling with numerous paintings, including biblical and political subjects, portraits and landscapes. Johnson paints directly on walls and on found objects such as paper, cardboard boxes, pieces of wood, sheets of metal and plastic bottles. Johnson said of his earliest paintings, "I painted on cardboard, masonite, building panels and whatever folks would bring me. First I painted just Bible subjects and some of my church members. They liked these and began buying them for a little money." Dr. A. Everette James, Jr., wrote that Johnson suffered acute pain in his legs in the mid 1980s, and after many tests learned that he had a bone and joint disorder. The artist decided to paint objects to pay off his mounting medical bills. He had his first solo exhibition in 1991.