LATE BLOOMER: Artist Eva Johnson, 100, will be feted tonight
in an artist's reception at the Lafayette Savings Bank. Photo provided

She's going like 60 at 100

Late in life, Otterbein artist rediscovered a passion for painting

By Kathy Matter

The National Weather Service doesn't know it but the forecast for the opening of Eva Johnsoes "100th Birthday Exhibition" tonight is pink clouds. "My husband used to say that, whenever I sold a painting, I was on a pink cloud for two weeks," says the Otterbein artist who is considered Tippecanoe County's version of Grandma Moses.

Tonight she predicts, "I'm going to be up on that cloud again."

In November, Johnson celebrated her 100th birthday with a big community party. To continue the celebration, Lafayette Savings Bank will host a retrospective of her oils on canvas and oils on sawblades at its Sagamore and Greenbush branch. It opens with a public reception from 6 to 8 tonight. The exhibit remains up through March 18.

Johnson is looking forward to the reception. "This only happens once in a lifetime' " says Johnson, whose sense of humor is intact even though her eyesight is failing.

"I wouldn't want to miss it." Although Johnson began to sketch and draw as a child, and she wanted to study to become a commercial artist, her father nixed the notion.

She was 65 before she picked up a paintbrush in earnest, but it began a career that's lasted for 35 years.

Landscapes and flowers, her favorite subjects, will figure prominently in her show. "I like anything that looks natural, like nature " she says.

Johnson first noticed painted saws on a trip to covered bridge country around Rockville. "I never stopped until I could get me some" she says.

The results of her artistic efforts have ended up in homes all over the United States and have even been featured in a Chicago gallery.

"I'm just glad people are interested in them. I hoped they would be", says Johnson, who considers her paintings part of her family. "I like them. I didn't have any children, so they are my chil- dren!"

She isn't ready to say that her painting days are behind her. "But I haven't been able to do anything for quite a while be- cause my eyef, are so poor. I try every day to do some more. I'm coming back, but it's slow," she says.

Even though her eyes are blurred, her spirits aren't. Still riding high on the emotion from her birthday party, Johnson says, tongue-in-cheek, "I never was so popular. It took them 100 years to catch up with me. I thought they weren't going to."

STILL SHARP - Eva Johnson paints landscapeson
saw blades as well as on canvas. Photo provided.

This article originally appeared on January 30, 1998, in the Lafayette Journal & Courier, a community newspaper with a fine record of support for the visual arts. The Journal & Courier, 217 N. Sixth St, Lafayette, IN 47901. Tel.: (765) 423-5511. Kathy Matter is currently a freelance writer who lives in Lafayette, IN.