Little Rock, AR
Fire Meets Form: Enamels by Burke Johnston features more than twenty-five works by the artist, a Jewelry and Small Metals Instructor in the Arkansas Arts Center Museum School. The diverse works in the exhibition—ranging from small-format books and jewelry to larger panels—employ both the painted (Limoge) and cloisonné enamel techniques.
Always fascinated with “making creations,” Johnston first studied drawing and painting in school and later worked in Arkansas as an interior designer specializing in commercial building projects. “I used to paint with oils and encaustics, Johnston says, “they employ a similar process of layering one color over another. I’m really drawn to using simple shapes in my work an enlarging them with layers of glowing, transparent color.” In 1992, she took her first jewelry-making class at the Arkansas Arts Center, which proved transformative. Torches, jeweler’s saws, and kilns seemed to be the perfect tools for Johnston, who was fascinated with the processes used to create wearable art from copper and silver.
In 1998, Johnston moved to Houston, Texas, where she found the Glassell School of Art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. There, she studied with Sandie Zilker and Jan Harrell, who introduced Johnston to the rich potential of the medium. “Jan would always look at my work and say, ‘You know, that would look better with enamel,’ so I decided to learn,” recalls Johnston. As a working metalsmith, Johnston is drawn to images which portray a sense of rhythm or gesture, and she continues to love seeing stiff metals evolve into new fluid forms. Having relocated back to Arkansas and now a teacher herself, Johnston continues to look for unique ways to use the medium, with many of her students—themselves from diverse art backgrounds—offering her new ideas and inspirations.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website