As an only child, Mark Lenn Johnson, having been born in and just recently moved back to, Lexington, Kentucky's historic East End neighborhood, passed away his solitary childhood hours captivated within the colorful pages of comic books. Unbeknownst to him at that time, that early fascination with color would provide him with the ground work for his artistic inspiration later in life.
Johnson’s artistic journey began more than a decade ago when he started hand-stringing store bought beads and components into bracelets and necklaces. He realized his passion for glass after purchasing a vintage Fenton amethyst carnival glass bowl at a yard sale. That piece, particularly its color, captivated him and introduced him to the beauty of handcrafted art glass. Several years later, that appreciation would materialize into an antiques business where he specialized in vintage art glass. He continued to educate himself about art glass but always his creative nature called out for him to make. From there, he progressed to making his own beads, first with polymer clay, and then later, with instruction from lampwork artist Laura Hallock, out of glass.
Desiring to appreciate the medium's qualities and manipulate glass in as many ways as possible, he studied kiln-formed glassmaking with Laura Hallock and glassblowing with Jon Stokes and Brook White, two former students of Stephen Rolfe Powell.
Capitalizing on what he had already learned, he studied books and magazines, observed other glass artists and utilized the Internet - defining his own trial-and-error approach - and just recently has set up his new studio in The Artists' Village - a live/work community for artists and makers - located in his childhood home community.
When his previous studio flooded due to a ruptured water tank, Johnson was forced to cease his glassmaking for a while. Desperately needing an outlet for his creative energy, he turned to photography - taking instruction from Lexington, Kentucky's John Snell. The medium that he once used only to share his glass work with the world, was now a medium that, in and of itself, he thought could be used to delve deeper into his artistic soul and explore his fascination with beautiful color.
“I already had the photography equipment since I was taking pictures of my glasswork but I never considered myself a photographer. I was simply taking pictures of my glass,” he recalls. “I had an overwhelming desire to create something new..to make something that did not exist prior and then capture it digitally. So, by happenchance one day I added some color to water and photographed the result (my Watersilks series). That led to me painting in milk (my Colorswims series) which then led me to waterdrop photography (my Fountainfalls series). Now, in addition to my glass work, I photograph beautiful, colorful but temporary, fine art images".
Johnson takes his artistic inspiration from varied master artists such as Ellis Wilson (painter), Stephen Rolfe Powell and Dale Chihuly (glassmakers) and Sam Maloof (furniture maker). Inspiration has also come from his travels to Italy, France, Mexico, Asheville, North Carolina and New York.
Johnson's work has been exhibited around the world - including Finland, Tokyo, Florence (Italy) and the Louvre Museum in Paris, France. His commissioned and production work can be found in private collections throughout the United States and internationally, as well as at Eastern Kentucky University's John Grant Crabbe Main Library.