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Barbara M. Johansen – Artist Bio

Art Jewelry and Retablos
Brunswick, Maine

I have always been an artist/designer; I majored in art in High School and Textile Design in college. I grew up in the Northeast, and attended college in New York City. I live in Brunswick, Maine.

The art and life of Frida Kahlo, and the colors and textiles of the American Southwest, India and the Far East heavily influenced me. I love to use beads, stones, and found materials in my work, in both the necklaces and the Retablos.

My Retablos and my jewelry have been in galleries in Tucson and Sedona, various galleries in South Florida, Colorado, Arizona and currently, in Bath, Maine at SOF Gallery.

I love when someone begins collecting my work, then I know I am reaching people on some level.

Some of my Retablos reflect my irreverent sense of humor, i.e. ‘Saint Frida de las Flores’, or ‘Frida does Bling’, honoring Frida Kahlo. Other Retablos honor Buddha, The Virgin or Guadalupe, and Dia de los Muertos.

It was at the Tucson Art Museum 15 years ago that I was first exposed to Retablos as an art form. I used to comb the deserts for rusted metal to use in my shrines. I sometimes use old wooden drawers for the boxes and recycled materials just to keep things a little more ‘green’. I always include beads in my shrines; it has become a signature for me reflecting my other passion, jewelry design.

The beads and stones resonate with me. I was actually given a gift of trade beads fifteen years ago, by a friend from Ghana. I went to a Gem and mineral show in Pompano, FL that same year and I was in awe of all the stones and gems that were there. I became a collector first, then I began making the jewelry and it was accepted into boutiques and art galleries.

I am now a full time resident of Maine, and chose to live here because of it’s vibrant art community and it’s proximity to the beauty that surrounds me everywhere I go in Maine. I work in my studio where I look out on trees.


Barbara M. Johansen