Profiles of Randolph Johnston and J.R. McHone

Two separate artists who are making a difference doing what they love.

| November/December 1976

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    Artist Randolph Johnston at his island home.

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In celebration of little-known MOTHER-type folks from all over.

Artist on an Island: Randolph W. Johnston

Back in the '20's, Canadian sculptor Randolph W. Johnston coined a word—Megamachine—to describe a society that swallowed people up and excreted them as look-alike pellets. And it was back then that the young sculptor conjured a dream of being able to leave the Megamachine to live in freedom, alone, on a tropical island.

As it turned out, that dream eventually materialized . . . but only after periods of hardship and hunger, rejection of Johnston's work, and the death of his wife (which left him alone with a tiny daughter).

It wasn't until the early '50's that Johnston—accompanied by his second wife, Margot (a ceramist), and three little boys went off to find his long-dreamed-of island in the Abaco group of the Bahamas (at the time, a remote and difficult-to-reach hardship post). To make the move, Johnston left behind a studio and an assistant professorship in art at Smith College in Massachusetts . . . and a growing reputation as an artist (Ran's "Five That Escaped" was bought by the University of Nebraska and was featured in Life magazine).

Hard luck followed close on the Johnstons' heels. Margot and the boys came down with polio, and it was years before Margot regained full use of her arms and legs. The family lived hand to mouth in this period: their art was rejected, and their property—which they'd bravely put up for sale—remained at home, unsold.

In time, however, the Johnstons scraped together enough cash to buy an Abaco schooner, which served as their home while they cruised in search of a source of income and an island home. Eventually, the family had to be moved ashore to live in a cave so that Ran could farm the only cash crop possible: tourists who'd pay for a week's cruise.


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