Bessie Johnson, 90 years old and a lifelong resident of Madison County, KY was married to the late Andrew Johnson for 69 years until his death in December 2013. They are the parents of Kathy Bellfield, grandparents and great–grand parents of Tiffany and Makayla Bellfield. Bessie began painting 30 years ago when she was encouraged by her arts and craft class instructor, Mrs. Pennington of Kingston, to take up painting as a hobby.
Over the years Bessie has won numerous awards for her paintings at state fairs, art shows and festivals in three states. In 1994, she won the Best of Show Blue Ribbon award at the prestigious Frank Duveneck Art Show in Northern Kentucky for her painting titled Cotton Pickers. Bessie who was born on a small farm in rural Madison County where she lives today has painted many scenes that reflect the rural community landscape and African American culture. Her husband Andrew was a self–taught sketch artist and would assist her painting work by drawing various scenes (mostly from memory) for her to paint. Some of her favorite scenes have been churches, segregated schools, farm animals, flowers, and trees. Bessie’s colorful paintings are very much like looking at a history book that tells the story of her family and community. She has been and continues to be an inspiration and teacher to many members of her family and community.
This upcoming exhibit at the Lyric Theatre will be a retrospective showcase of Bessie’s work over the past 30 years. And this event will serve as a grand time for all attendees to help the Embry family bestow honor and recognition on our beloved mother, grandmother, aunt, cousin, community elder, and award winning painter!