Margaret Galvin Johnson’s childhood was filled with special privileges that included dinners with such stellar artists as Georgia O’Keeffe as she traveled with her family across the U.S. However, her life was also afflicted by abuse and trauma. Her profound story is about her remarkable inner strength to persevere in spite of her painful experiences. As she shares her “transformation in process”, she states, “Now I am letting go of the past and finding a new perspective about my place in the world.”
She was destined to be an artist. In her first exhibition she sold 17 out of 22 pieces. You’ll find her powerful abstract paintings on her website margaretgalvinjohnsonstudios.com.
I am honored to share Margaret’s talent and story with you. Her article is part of The Healing Power of ART & ARTISTS ongoing series of Artists Stories, articles written by artists about how art has served as a source of healing in their lives. ~ Renée Phillips
Margaret Galvin Johnson’s Story
I had spent my entire adult life in therapy after growing up in my family amidst mental health issues, sexual and physical abuse, neglect, and suicide murder. It was all a bit like a bad dream but out of these experiences came the art.
I was the first girl after 10 boys. My father retired from a life-long career in the military when I was two. I spent most of my time watching my brothers play sports. I also spent much of my free time at The Beemis Center for The Arts immersed in clay for what could have been a normal upbringing as an artist and athlete.
My parents moved in important social and political circles to help grow the economy of the eight western states. My father became the Vice President of The Federation of The Rocky Mountain States and the Western States Art Foundation is one of the many causes he helped establish. Traveling across the West with my parents I had the good fortune to meet the Governors of the eight Western States and attend conferences that my father organized. When we were in Santa Fe we would stay with the owners of The Sante Fe New Mexican newspaper and have dinner with Georgia O’Keeffe, Peter Hurd and Henriette Wyeth.
Back at home chaos would reign. Police visits were frequent,
sexual abuse was rampant and physical violence was common.
Back at home chaos would reign. Police visits were frequent, sexual abuse was rampant and physical violence was common. I witnessed my brothers becoming strangely delusional. Six of them became schizophrenic, bi-polar or schizo-affective by the time I was in my teens. The family completely unraveled after my brother Brian killed his girlfriend before he killed himself.
I was given the opportunity to leave home, so I left in the middle of eighth grade. My benefactors were art patrons, their home was a museum of international art. They provided me with a safe home, an amazing education and they loved me like I was one of their own.
On my call to adventure I was exposed to classic literature and the fine arts became more accessible. The hands-on art experiences through the school were indelible. This was the beginning of the journey back to who I always wanted to be. An artist, I’ve known this since the third grade. It just took me a while.
I now have the opportunity to offer hope to others
who have experienced trauma and adversity.
This is the reason I wake up and get out of bed excited to start my day.
Now I can say without this life experience I would not be who I am today. It was very challenging and not without its setbacks. The strength, the grit and the determination to overcome the grief and the loss from my past took many years.
Today, after working for 20 years as an artist and finding the courage to heal from my past, I now have the opportunity to offer hope to others who have experienced trauma and adversity. This is the reason I wake up and get out of bed excited to start my day.
There is love and joy and passion in the places I find so meaningful, especially the painting, and the writing. My friends make me laugh, my husband and children keep me grounded.
I have started new series of oil paintings to honor my mother
who died this summer. She was an artist too. She did the best she could.
My children are now 18 and 15. My supportive community of artists around the world are amazing resources. My life of travel and adventure is tied into being an artist and athlete, strong mentally and physically. My home and my studio grows with work from each passing year. I recently installed a permanent collection of my photos into the Dahlia Center for Health and Well Being.
I have always had a love of color and paint. Now I’m just doing the work. I’m finding the discipline. I have started new series of oil paintings to honor my mother who died this summer. She was an artist too. She did the best she could. All I can do is show up and do my best every single day. Always seeking out better ways to move through my life with honesty and integrity and asking for help when I need it. Forgiveness and compassion for myself and others tops the list. Now I am letting go of the past and finding a new perspective about my place in the world.
Visit Margaret Galvin Johnson’s website at margaretgalvinjohnsonstudios.com/