Johnson’s Pasture


Johnson’s Pasture, 185 acres of hillside wild land, lies to the north of Claremont, California. Originally purchased by my great grandparents Cassius Johnson and his wife Louisa, the Pasture was overseen by the Johnson family during the first half of the last century. I grew up in this setting and was fortunate enough to bring my family to the Pasture as my children were growing. 

The Pasture has served the community for decades, becoming more important as increasing urbanization led to the population density we see today. With the growth of Claremont, surrounding communities and the spread of subdivisions and industry from Los Angeles to San Bernardino, residents need wildness now as a psychological and spiritual resource more than ever before.

Johnson’s Pasture has long served as inspiration, solace, comfort and renewal for me. It is fitting to embark on a series of writings, paintings and photographs focusing on the Pasture and it’s meaning to myself, the family, and the larger community.  This work consisted of 10 medium sized acrylic and mixed media paintings on canvas, as well as 4 composite photographs, and a set of supporting poetic and reflective writings exploring the meaning of the Wild and function of the Pasture in the ongoing life of the community.

I was fortunate to present it in exhibit form in 2017 within the context of the venerable and vital center for the study of local flora and wild land, the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden in Claremont.  My thanks to Lucinda McDade, David Bryant and Karina Chappel for their organization and assistance. Further, my sincere thanks to the Claremont Rotary Club for sponsoring the exhibit.  

I am further delighted that the Claremont Heritage exhibited the work at their gallery in Claremont, and published this exhibition catalogue to document the exhibits. I would like to thank Claremont Heritage executive director, David Shearer and archivist, Sean Stanley for their enthusiasm, commitment to, and support of this project. 

Johnson’s Pasture: Living Place, Living Time is available for purchase at: 

Claremont Heritage
840 N. Indian Hill Blvd
Claremont California 91711

Branching II, 2016 Johnson’s Pasture Series #1
Acrylic and canvas 40 X 68”

Dali Come Back 

With Us to the Hills

The Abstract Distractionists broke away from Salvadore Dali, et. al. showing what was in all it’s angled out form shadows hiding those surreally baroque, broken dreams  .  .  .           Dali was all classicist, really, and Lundberg and her friends  neo-really; and so the flat remained flat, not recurrent in time and the sun glared bleak and drove us alone.

But it isn’t about the pictures.  Or how we should try to represent anything or all.  That misses the everything.    It’s more about how we are here, seeing this hill, these trees, that valley below.    


Where is Salvadore? 

Now that we most need to see
remind us of home . . .

Storied Systems, 2016 Johnson’s Pasture Series #2
Acrylic and canvas 33 X 14”


Climbing to it’s apex the road cut over the saddle to the ravine below, stretching perhaps a mile, descending to meet the trail most people follow up from the flats and riding stable which were much later to become the parking area.  

Running full tilt up this road toward me I could see a riderless white horse, saddled, stirrups and sweat flying.  There was no stopping this runaway and as it charged past I could see it’s wild eyes and flying main and tail, hear labored heaving and hooves pounding on the decomposed granite roadway, and smell it’s heat and dust.


Field Theory Revised, 2016  Johnson’s Pasture Series #3
Acrylic and canvas 18 X 36”


Maybe the atheists are right and no god exists, or materialists and the world is random accident. But you can’t tell me that any of that matters as I watch the grass dance and wind sends waves rippling down hillside. Hawks ride wild currents higher.

Perfect white flowernear
eucalyptus, warm breeze
red earth underneath.

Paving Over, Johnson’s Pasture Series #4
Acrylic and canvas 10 X 50” 

Deer Hunting near Dawn

10 years old and trying to keep up with 
Father, he trying to match his father’s 
standards to kill his own deer with his own son beside him.  Me struggling to match his pace up steep hill in early morning gloom. 

Damp sage pungent in the breaking gloom
rocks muffled crunching underfoot and
absorbing our strained breathing small creatures scurry in near brush to avoid our intruding their fragile world.

Fearing what we would encounter and destroy.  Fearing more coming home empty handed
Unable to fill a grandfather’s cleaning rack
in front of barn below and generations binding both of us to our respective paths.

“Quit bellyaching” he hissed into light fog 
and heavier darkness. Fearing the shattering 
boom the cordite smell fearing Innocence and union blown into tomorrow.

On Seeing Foliage, 2016 Johnson’s Pasture Series #5
Acrylic and canvas 30 X 10” 

Patricia Squires Johnson

My mother, as the story goes, shot herself in the foot.  Kind, exuberant soul loving life. It was up in Johnson’s Pasture where family had gone picnicking and shooting off the family guns.  Their own land.  A family thing, you know, surveying their domain.  They’d  drive up, look around, maybe have lunch in the meadow.

She insisted upon learning then bungled the shot 
the round enter her foot.  They bundled her in the car and 
drove down the winding familiar road 
to the hospital some miles away.  A funny story .  .  .
if you’re trying to be patriarch.  Something to pass on
to those hungry to hear.

A humiliating story for the women who worked at wielding the family power.  Depended on which side of the family
you favored.  The story carried weight, however
as those things do, especially when heard by the younger
generation sitting around the table as local news, jokes and stories were shared, children eager for clues.  My sister listened.

Sometimes it’s more about the way stories were told.
Recounted again and again through the years tales
relayed with wicked gleam and a wink through generations 
passing myths along.  Subtext clear after all, what should one expect?  My mother saddled and bridled with shame
learned how breaking out of limiting roles brought with it
great risk.  As did we all.

Cypress, 2016 Johnson’s Pasture Series #6
Acrylic and canvas 42 X 36”  


Along this very path I have walked for centuries
Before it grew this tree, I was already becoming
that rock outcropping.  The sun burns as all stars do
until at last, they stop, then particles dance in darkness.

Heat shimmer vision:
Distortion blocks distortion
And all is revealed.