Merritt Johnson was born in West Baltimore and spent her childhood navigating between trees, tarps, concrete and culture. Johnson’s work is rooted in her experience as a cis-gender pansexual woman of mixed (non-status) Mohawk, Blackfoot and Settler descent. From this perspective, her work, as she states, “asserts agency for mixed bodies, and allegiance with land and water.” Johnson exhibits, performs, speaks and writes independently and collaboratively.
Johnson earned her BFA from Carnegie Mellon University and her MFA from Massachusetts College of Art. For nearly two decades Johnson’s work has navigated spaces between bodies and the body politic, land and culture rooted in and dependent on Anowarakowa Kawennote / Turtle Island, the name given to North America by the Mohawk. She has seen and felt the effects of the tongues, knives and pens that cut apart land, culture, sex, and bodies. She creates work that celebrates connection and builds vision using mixed materials and processes that reflect her mixed heritage: sewing, casting, weaving, drawing, beading, painting, carving, performance, and film. Her works are containers for story, feeling and thought and exercises for existence. Johnson’s work casts light and throws shadow on how and who we are, and on how and who we could be.
She currently has work on view at the Museum of Art and Design in New York in the exhibition The Burke Prize, the Future of Craft. Johnson’s work is in many public and private collections including The Birmingham Museum of Art, Birmingham, AL and The Museum of Contemporary Native Arts, Santa Fe, NM.