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Racine Art Museum
441 Main St.
Racine, WI 53403
Life Story / Obituary
Christopher “Casey” Johns, 68, passed away peacefully on March 2, 2021, at Ascension All Saints Hospital. Chris was an abstract painter, music and culture lover, world traveler, and devoted husband and father.
Chris was born in Racine to Robert A. and Margaret H. (nee Vasas) Johns on December 2, 1952. He attended Horlick High School. He began to study art at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, where he met his future wife and fellow UWM art student, Mary Ellen Blackman They married in 1973 and moved to San Francisco that same year, where Chris had transferred to the San Francisco Art Institute. After earning his BFA in 1975, he entered the graduate painting program at Stanford University, studying with Nathan Olivera (1928–2010) and completing his MFA in 1977. Chris always remembered his time in the Bay Area fondly and spoke of it often. After graduate school, Chris briefly returned to Wisconsin before moving to New York City in 1978. After fifteen months in New York, he accepted a position at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, teaching painting and drawing. He became a Full Professor and, upon retirement, Professor Emeritus. Chris and Mary returned to Racine in 2012.
Chris’s career as an artist began with his first solo show at Bienville Gallery in New Orleans in 1980. In the following years, he showed at the Jan Cicero Gallery in Chicago, the Sylvia Schmidt Gallery in New Orleans, the Perimeter Gallery in Chicago, the Contemporary Art Center in New Orleans, and the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters in New York City. He contributed work to many prominent group exhibitions, including Southern Abstraction (1989) curated by Peter Frank and Abstraction in Louisiana (1980) curated by Terrington Calas. In 1986, he was a Fellow at the Vermont Studio Colony, and in 1999 an artist in residence at the David and Julia White Artist Colony in Ciudad Colón, Costa Rica. He was the recipient of many grants and fellowships, including a Visual Artists’ Fellowship from the Southern Arts Federation/National Endowment for the Arts in 1988. He is the recipient of the 2020–2021 Racine Art Museum (RAM) Fellowship, and an exhibition at the RAM’s Charles A. Wustum Museum of Fine Arts, August 27 to November 27, 2021.
He is survived by his son Eric, wife Mary, and brother Greg. In lieu of flowers, memorial remembrances may be made to Racine Art Museum, ramart.org or LSU Museum of Art, lsumoa.org, (225) 389-7212.