Martina Johnson-Allen

I dwell on the spiritual and soulful, below the earth, explanation for my art making. My goal is to express the messages from the unconscious. This communion involves the human ritual of making objects which please and acknowledge the soul of self and those of the global family of humans.

Born in 1947 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA, I received my BA in Elementary Education at The Pennsylvania State University and my MFA in Art Education with an emphasis on Printmaking at The University of the Arts. I also received training at the Tyler School of Art at Temple University and the Abington Art Center, all in Pennsylvania. I attended master classes in bookbinding at The Center for The Book Arts in New York. I have exhibited my prints, artist books, box constructions, graphite drawings, soft sculptures and mixed media three dimensional assemblages and dress facades in many USA shows including at The African American Museum in Philadelphia, The Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Society for Contemporary Craft in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, The National African American Museum and Cultural Center in Wilberforce, Ohio, The American Craft Museum in New York, and the Renwick and National Museum of American Art, both of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. My work was installed in The U.S. Embassy in Ghana as part of the Art in Embassies Program sponsored by the United States Department of State.

I received two Richard Guggenheim Awards and the Leonard B. Belber Award for best of show from The Abington Art Center and a Window of Opportunity Grant from the Leeway Foundation. The African American Museum in Philadelphia awarded me the prestigious Seagram’s Perspective in African American Art Grant, which enabled me to create a work titled The Seven Crones for the museum’s permanent collection thus defining a critical juncture in my artistic development.

I have conducted workshops and art residencies in book and box construction in museum and school settings. I was given the honor to create a print for the Brandywine Graphics Workshop in Philadelphia, PA. My curatorial experience was expressed in a multigenerational and culturally diverse women’s exhibition titled A Gathering of Women, A Healing Place, One Thousand Expressions of Life.

My lengthy participation in the Orton Dyslexia Society, an advocacy organization for children and adults with dyslexia, has served as a catalyst for my determination to maintain a strong art curriculum while teaching in the Philadelphia Public Schools. My everlasting motto is: Teach Artfully.

My work sustains me. It is as vital as oxygen. My art making creates harmony, balance and comfort. It is a ritual that reveres, honors and communicates with my ancestors thus creating an acute awareness of my connection to nature and sense of purpose. Albeit my purpose is oftentimes understood with clarity, it reveals an evolutionary direction and I faithfully go wherever it takes me.


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