Graduate of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Dorothy has been a working artist in Santa Barbara, California since 1976. She is known for mural-size contemporary realist oil paintings in which she seeks to synthesize representation with other contemporary influences such as pattern & decoration; neo-pop; surrealism and abstraction. Churchill-Johnson's work has been collected by museums, major corporations, five-star hotels and private collectors nationally and internationally. Her next scheduled solo museum exhibition was to be at The Butler Institute of American Art in the spring of 2020. It was postponed due to Covid-19; the reschedule date will be announced by the end of this year.

Dorothy Chrurchilll-Johnson is represented by                        , Gallery from Los Angeles 


Early on I realized that my greatest strength as an artist was my drawing skill. As a result, I've always looked for ways to take hard-edge realism in new directions by combining it with more contemporary influences such as neo-pop, op art, and pattern, with a touch of surrealism. I've been working toward a synthesis of realism and abstraction by finding beauty in the tiny details of ordinary things and blowing them up to visual extremes.

The images point to the ephemeral nature of all human events, from weeds growing through the cracks in the pavement to the torn remnants of notices that were once timely. I call it instant archaeology in that one can extrapolate from the remnants, the presence and passage of life above. Aspects of the microcosm become metaphors for the macrocosm.

I emphasize the intersections where man and nature come together. Pavement and chain link symbolize the artificial barriers between us. Decaying leaves are juxtaposed with pods or blossoms to remind us of the ineluctable transitions we all face as organic beings.

In the surreal landscape series the light is almost always transitional – either waxing or waning – and, for me, they evoke an alternative world of odd juxtapositions and the sense of being an isolated consciousness in a universe which is constantly changing and chillingly indifferent to individuals. Beauty plays an important role because beauty is its own excuse for being, but the images emphasize the poignancy of its fleeting nature. There is a subtly bleak subtext of loneliness and global climate change, along with the question “Is the universe friendly and are we in harmony with it?”

Most recently, I’ve been concentrating on mirror-image kaleidoscopes which, for me, evoke the power of centrifugal force that runs the universe. In the physical world, everything explodes from or circulates around a central sphere—electrons around a nucleus, planets around a sun, and a galaxy around a black hole. In an infinite space any place can be the center. Hence, we are all at the center of our own universe.

The paintings are meticulously rendered by hand without digital assistance. I start all my paintings with a red undercoat and build the image with many layers of thin glazes, sometimes allowing the color underneath to show through to achieve complex but subtle variations. My hope is that the combination of color and enormous size will make the viewer feel as if he is looking at something familiar for the first time.