About the Artist and her Bears: Harriet Johns


Harriet Johns was born on October 25th, 1923, lived much of her life in the American Southwest and the San Francisco area, and traveled extensively. Her artwork ranges from huge foundry-produced enamels to small prints, which, together, represent a wide range of subjects and styles, all with rich symbolism and vibrant colorations. She describes her relationship to her art in these words: “It is Pachamama – the Earth Mother – that I respond to, not the linear, predictable surface, but the gut beneath it – above it all. Encompassing, changing, light, space, form – the intent. Energy. Emotional power.” *

Harriet created the Bear Series after her home in Colorado was twice invaded by bears that left claw marks on her walls. These experiences left her frightened, but also determined not to give in to that fear. Instead, she worked to connect with the bears’ energy in a positive way by creating a spiritual offering to them. Through her art she was able to take control of the bears and her fear, and rid her home and her emotions of their powerful, terrifying presence. Yet, she kept the claw marks as a reminder and enjoyed showing them to people, and talking about the experience.

From Marian: Harriet’s potent “bear” message for me as an older person is that we must not deny and be afraid of our own aging. We must confront it with energy and creativity, and use our own positive strength to move forward into the future.

Harriet died on October 17th, 2014, at age 90.


*Learn more about Harriet Johns. The quote is from her book, Colors from the Heart, page 118.

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About Marian

Marian Leah Knapp, Ph.D., wants to start a new conversation about “aging with intent.” Much of what is written about elders is from the point of view of physicians, psychiatrists, gerontologists, and adult children. In her roles as author, columnist, speaker and elder activist, Marian is reporting from the front lines.
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