Born in Berkeley, California in 1920, Ynez Johnston spent most of her childhood drawing and painting, reading, and trying to live up to her motherís strong expectations. During a visit to the de Young Museum in San Francisco, Ynez came across displays of Persian and Indian miniatures. It was then that she first realized the importance of art and the passion inspired by human creativity. Her familyís vast and varied library solidified her artistic appreciation and fed her imagination with romantic and adventurous tales.
At 16, Ynez Johnston graduated high school and enrolled in the University of California, Berkeley where she studied fine art. She was exposed to art she had never seen before, the most influential being Byzantine and Italian Early Christian art, ancient Roman mosaics, Picasso, Matisse, Klee, Miro, Chagall, and Rouault. After college Ynez traveled to Mexico on the Bertha B. Taussig Memorial Award. Though her early artistic style was greatly influenced by Klee, her ideas came from her experiences in Mexico.
Ynez finally returned to Berkeley in 1943 and was granted her a solo exhibition at the San Francisco Museum of Art. After finishing her Masters degree in 1946, Ynez went back to Mexico. The watercolors created during this sojourn spawned a flurry of interest and sales and secured her a place in the pantheon of great American artists.
In the 1960s Ynez Johnston experimented with etchings, woodcuts, and lithography, and by the 1990s began delving into sculpture and bronze castings, all done exclusively by Decker Studios. Many of her bronzes are fantastical, mythical, and symbolic animals or architectural structures with embroideries of fanciful text, finials, and niches revealing other miniature characters and stories. But painting is still one of her most beloved forms of expression. "Painting is for me," Johnston wrote, "like a voyage into oceans known and unknown, depths and distances ultimately unfathomable. The end of the voyage is never what one might have anticipated."
Biographical information derived from the book Ynez Johnston by Gerald Nordland, published by Grassfield Press, Inc., 1996.