Andrew Ellis Johnson
Associate Professor of Art
Andrew Ellis Johnson was born in Cortland NY to a jazz guitarist, civil war historian father and science major mother who, together, won many bowling tournaments. He made his first life-size faux bronze sculpture of Baron Manfred Von Richtoven at age 13, miniature marzipan figurines of Fats Waller at 11 and his first film cycle on the Battle of Gettysburg at 9. Pursuing film and painting, he studied at SUNY Buffalo and completed his BFA at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. After years in Europe and Asia, he earned an MFA in Art at Carnegie Mellon while serving as an artist-in-residence at the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections and curating an exhibition of inmate art at the City Theater.
Subsequently he attended Skowhegan and a Poznan Academy of Art residency in Skoki, Poland. After several nomadic years of teaching and a stint in Amsterdam, he taught at University at Buffalo where he co-founded PED, a socially engaged collective that has performed in Buffalo, Belfast, Chongqing, Rio de Janeiro, St. John’s, Tonawanda and Toronto. He joined the CMU faculty in 2004. Recent residency/exchange projects include those at Korean National University of the Arts in Seoul, Fayoum International Art Center in Egypt, University of the Arts London at Camberwell and Sites of Passage in Jerusalem/Ramallah/Pittsburgh.
Across a variety of media and tactics, Johnson explores social and political issues, wrestling with boundaries between aesthetic, political and moral orders. He treats representation — not as a hermetic mimetic pictorial tradition — but as an agency to awaken and combat torpor. Venues for his work have included museums, galleries, arts and video festivals, public collaborations, conferences, and publications in the Americas, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.