I had the privilege of working with this artist, Lonni Sue Johnson, in the 1980s
and again when she created the TLT Group's logo for us in 1998. She was patient when I was slow to see how her images could elevate my fumbling attempts to translate ideas into words.
She offered insights and humor - and so does her work. She represented multiple, complex ideas with deceptively charming drawings in warm, soft colors.
I was saddened by recent news of Lonni Sue's encephalitis, and intrigued by the exhibit at the Walters Museum in Baltimore (co-sponsored by the Cognitive Science Department of the Zanvyl Krieger School of Arts & Science at The Johns Hopkins University). Finally, this past Saturday, Sally and I took our nephew to the "...show of approximately 25 works exploring the impact of severe brain damage on the life and creativity of an artist." - from "Puzzles of the Brain: An Artist's Journey through Amnesia"
The exhibit displays Lonni Sue Johnson's works chronologically along with explanations of her brain damage. I couldn't simply enjoy the first sequence of pictures that showed her growing success as an artist and commercial illustrator (several New Yorker covers, etc.), because I knew that trajectory had been broken. Then came the hand-made word puzzles and other non-paintings, with explanations of how and why she couldn't paint or draw or remember or talk or move.
Finally, the third set of images offers some hope. Lonni Sue's partial but extraordinary recovery continues today. The love and dedication and skill of Lonni Sue's mother and sister and the medical professionals are clear and admirable. She has regained some of her ability to use words and to produce art. She is still communicating ideas and feelings. She can recognize her old work and her new work as her own. And so can we. Her spirit is still there.
The following 4 paragraphs are excerpts from "Johns Hopkins Researchers Study Artistic Aspect of Illustrator’s Illness," News release from Johns Hopkins Univ., September 12, 2011, MEDIA CONTACT: Lisa De Nike