b.1938 as Warren Edward Johnson, legally changed name in 1974
signed paintings previously to 1974 as WAR
Studied at the Art Student’s League in New York 1965, & University of Mexico, Mexico City, 1961
Received Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from University of South Carolina, (1964 & 1970)
Studied under Edmund Yaghjian - (Yaghijian was an Armenian immigrant and friend and student of Ash Can artists, Sloan and Henri)
Received “Order of the Palmetto” -- the states highest civilian honor in 2000.
GSA Commissioned federal mural, 1978 -- won Design Award, original rendition for mural is now in the Smithsonian;
Awards: Awards in Visual Arts II—1983, National Endowment for the Arts award grant—1980, American Watercolor Society Traveling show—1970,
Springs Armory Show — Best of Show 1964 AND again in 1971 AND Best Open Media 1973, Piccolo Spoleto—Best of Show 1988, Federal Highway Adminstration highway beautification award.
Work featured in movies, television profiles & documentaries, ballets & lectures.
Served on numerous boards and judging panels.
Exhibited at: National Academy of Design, Nationalmuseum in Sweden, Mint Museum, Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art, DeCordova, Gibbes Museum,
State Museum, Columbia Museum, The White House, Mississippi Museum, McKissick Museum, SC Governor’s Mansion, Cayce Historical Museum, GA Tech, McKissick Museum, Columbus Museum of Art, Virginia Museum of Art, Pensacola Museum of Art, Asheville Museum, Springs Building in NY, Greenville Museum
Included in collections of: Smithsonian, Mississippi Museum, Columbia Museum, Florence Museum, State Museum, Cayce Museum, RJ Reynolds, IBM,
Federal Reserve Banks, Bank of America, Wachovia, Price Waterhouse, the State Art Collection, USC, Springs Industries, Kmart, Congaree National Park
Works published in: Pan, People Magazine, Art Voices South, Oxford American, Graphis, Penthouse, Weekly Reader, Newsweek, Readers Digest, House and Garden, Southern Living, National Enquirer, New Art Examiner, on the Rand McNally map, London Daily Mirror, The Scotsman, Sunday Mirror, Times Union, Amsterdam, Mexico, Germany, China, Sweden, Amsterdam, Belgium, & Greece.
Included in art books by Rizzoli, Prestel, Knopf, Chelsea House, Random House, National Geographic, history books, & countless travel guides
Quotes about Blue Sky’s work from art show judges and the press:
'State of the art of illusion in the last decades of the century' Annamaria Giusti - Arte e illusion/artedossier - Guinti, Florence, Italy
'Painted with realistic architectural appearance - a welcome addition to the skyline.' Ingrid Sjostrom - 'The Deluded Eye - 5 Centuries among works of trompe l'oeil' exhibition, Nationalmuseum in Stockholm, Sweden
'Tunnelvision breaks down and opens the wall in a fascinating manner. Even when the observer is aware that this is a painting, the transition between reality and image is not evident at first glance.' - 'Tromp l'oeil Masterpieces (A Trick of the Eye) art history book by Eckhard Hollman & Jurgen Tesch, published by Prestel, Munich, Berlin, London, New York.
'...of the most remarkable artists from the past, present, and future of 3D street art... mind boggling oeuvre and unique vision... thrilling three-dimensional creations transform ordinary locations into alternative realities and behold the unexpected worlds that lie hidden beneath the surface of every day street life... convincing passers-by with lifelike depictions of highly unlikely scenes.' 3D Street Art (art history book) - Birgit Krols, Tectum Publishing, Antwerp, Belgium
'In a nod to Rene Magritte... Perhaps there are no pictures more genius and unique than this trompe l'oeil painting facade. In any case, Tunnelvision wins in thoroughly convincing it exists.' Nicolaas Matsier in his art history book 'Het Bedrogen Oog (Trompe l'oeil or Deceive the Eye), Antwerp, Belgium, & Amsterdam
“Fresh and bold... His work has both the technical ability and the freshness of vision, the feeling that something familiar is being seen for the first time, that has produced some of the best American painting of the past ten years... makes me want to see more of the artist’s work.” Henry Geldzahler, Assistant Curator of American Paintings and Sculpture, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, N. Y.
“...A combination of illusion and reality.” Diane Waldman, Curator of Exhibitions, Guggenheim Museum, New York, N.Y.
“...an unexpected combination. The artist has taken a realistic subject and has moved it into something else. Beneath this realism is a beautiful abstraction.” Harry Lowe, Assistant Director, National Collection of Fine Arts, Smithsonian, Washington, D.C.
“...subtle distinguished work... a poetic distillation of reality... very agreeable... brilliant.” Perry T. Rathbone, Director of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts
“Great fun... nice assemblage... a marvelous combination of good humor and craftsmanship.”
Dr. Brian O’Doherty, (then)Editor of “Art in America”
“Shows enormous good humor with a perfect selection of materials... a very masterful transition.” Tracy Atkinson, (then) Director of the Milwaukee Art Center
“His paintings are lyrical. No other mural compares to “TUNNELVISION”.
Dr. John Bryan, Author and Art historian at University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC
“Even sober drivers blink and often screech to a halt as the familiar old Federal Land Bank in downtown Columbia, South Carolina comes into view. There before astonished eyes is a veritable mirage: a Tunnel hewn out of mountain rock, through which a clearly marked highway curves off to a brilliant orange sunset... The reaction to “TUNNELVISION” ranges from cheers to puzzlement. No one has tried to detour through the tunnel -- yet. But there have been near crashes as motorists gawk at the phantasmagoria -- apparently transfixed by the prospect of driving off into Blue Sky’s wild blue yonder.” People Magazine, February 9, 1976
“His canvases are romantic and have a nineteenth-century or early twentieth-century sensibility, recalling the American landscape and seascapes of Winslow Homer. They suggest the sublime -- that ineffable quality of nature that is simultaneously both terrifying and beautiful. Blue Sky’s images are nostalgic and romantic; he derives his imagery from the things he loves and seeks to convey simply that sense of love. As realistic pictures, the landscapes capture some of the timeless qualities.” Craig Adcock, Professor of Art History, Florida State University
“Masterful use of materials in presenting a contemporary if absurd -- image of the south through the theme of the American highway. The viewer, mesmerized by the clearly rendered details on the back of a large truck ahead, is made to feel uneasy by the implied danger of the vantage point. At first glance, “Air Brakes” appears to be a serious realistic work. But on closer study, one notices that bottle caps are used for tail-lights; a zipper serves as a closure for the rear doors, and behind the wheels are satin mud-flaps inscribed: “Passing Side” and Sssucide”. David Scott Bundy, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
“...Blue Sky’s work depicts everyday life: settings and locales the average man might take for granted. The perceptive artist lifts these common experiences out of the ordinary with h is bold authenticity of color and varied contrast of light and shadows. He achieves a strong statement of night life by presenting a certain energy and passion through a stark study of contrasts. Subtly duplicating the eerie casts of nocturnal light, he applies the deep dark colors in unique juxtaposition to the very brilliant. As a result, his work is not only pleasantly realistic, but sensual. The artist, Blue Sky has significantly and honestly shared his emotional and electrically-charged visions with a receptive audience. Peggy C. Henderson, Art Voices South
“The idealized paintings of Blue Sky are developed with an intense realism, almost classical in approach. His works are developed with a technical virtuosity which has a timeless appeal (and a) concern for specificity.” Lyn Nelson-Mason, Columbia Museum of Art, Columbia, SC
“Like Picasso, his work is innovative and he sees beauty in items others would miss...” Martha Beaver, Art Critic, The State Newspaper
“Blue Sky’s mural, (“Gervais Street Extension -Twilight Vista”) is the ‘Crown Jewel’ of the State Museum” Jeanne Craig, 20 year Docent State Museum
Blue Sky was born Warren Edward Johnson in Columbia, South Carolina, on September 18, 1938. He attended Dreher High School before his acceptance at the University of South Carolina, where he earned his bachelor's and master's degrees in art and education.
At the prestigous Springs Mills show, he was judged 'best of show' by Henry Geldzahler, then curator of the Metropolitan Museum, whereupon Sky was invited to move to New York to study at the Art Students League.
Sky has been painting professionally for over 45 years, and has been solely supported by his art since 1970. In 1974, he legally changed his name to Blue Sky, and engraved it across his most famous work, Tunnelvision, a year later.
Tunnelvision was featured in the February 1976 issue of People Magazine, and it has appeared in dozens of publications since. Sky has exhibited alongside such artists as Robert Rauschenberg, Andrew Wyeth, Isamu Noguchi, Louise Nevelson, George Tooker, and Winslow Homer.
In 2013 Sky participated in the invitational 'Biennale of the South' in Panama City, Panama.
SC State Museum
Federal Reserve Banks
Bank of America
Chicago Museum of Contempory Art
National Academy of Design, New York
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts