White Cat with Canary Yellow Eyes
Calaveras Enterprise Column 06/29/04

ALL THAT GLITTERS By Antoinette May Herndon

"The White Cat With Canary Eyes "

Isn't it wonderful to get what you want, what you really, really want?

Edwin Cline wanted a painting by the famous Mokelumne Hill artist, John Johannsen. He wanted it so bad that he bit the bullet and bought it-four figures worth of wanting.

The thrill of acquisition was so great that it exploded into a poem. Some people are so darned creative! Just think about John and Ed-two new friends linked not only by taste but synchronicity.

Last year, soon after moving into his arresting Victorian next door to the Hotel Leger, Cline learned that the house was haunted. Not by a ghost but by the vibes of a very lively former owner, the artiste Johannsen.

Of course the two had to meet. Almost inevitably they became friends and anybody seeing a Johannsen painting will do almost anything to own one. So the rest follows. Sort of.

Elegant, silver-haired John Johannsen first came to Mokelumne Hill in 1962. "The Leger had just been restored," he recalls. "Everybody was talking about this Mok place, writing about it, going there for weekends. I drove up from San Francisco to see for myself. It was spring, roses everywhere. I thought Mokelumne Hill was the prettiest town in the world-winding streets, quaint little houses tucked away in alleys."

The next thing Johannsen knew he'd acquired a second home, a narrow, two-story sliver of history

cheek by jowl to the hotel.

At this point in time Johannsen was visual merchandising manager of the chic Saks Fifth Avenue at Grant avenue and Maiden lane, his windows truly the talk of the town. On the side he decorated Sausalito houseboats, designed backdrops for Woodside debutantes and painted, painted, painted.

What followed were group shows at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Hammersmith Gallery in New York, then a one man show at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor.

All the while, the artist divided his time between a five-room flat on Russian Hill and Mokelumne Hill. When someone made an offer he couldn't refuse on the Main street Victorian, he bought a vintage home on Church street where he still resides.

About this time, Johannsen opened two stores of his own-one at Lake Tahoe, the other in Paris-all the while maintaining his Mok Hill digs.

In 1987, after 15 years, he decided: "Glamorous as this is, what I really want is to be sitting at an easel in Mokelumne Hill." The rest is history. Today Johannsen maintains a studio in Jackson. Like his amazing art, the studio is filled with excitement and whimsy. Beyond chic, it's clearly over the top-yet still comfortable. Once there, you never want to leave.

Edwin Cline, a photographer, poet and professional croquet player is a more recent transplant to Mokelumne Hill. He moved here one year ago from Phoenix and already has made a name for himself through his work on the Arts Council.

A Renaissance man who gets things done, Cline's an organizer, passionate about what he loves and what he does.

Captivated by the divine silliness of Johannsen's work, he purchased a painting of a white cat so extraordinary that she charms the birds right out of the trees. Living with such an astonishing kitty proved to be inspirational.

Those who attended Poets Night earlier this month were lucky enough to hear his poem. For the rest of you, a treat:


"The white cat with canary yellow eyes and all the world her stage is holding a watermelon in her arms.

Her best dress swirls the folk memories of a thousand years with its farthingale skirt and majestic watermelon ruff and knitted collar.

Her calm shy eyes may lead you to many conclusions but be careful what you decide, because the very flowers of summer burst at her feet and a flock of birds, orange and yellow crowd round her head, singing and playing Obbligato.

Delight and gentle color, surely wicked vices, make us wonder (undercover) if we might be seduced. If irony and innocence are blended with a brush Do we then remember things that leave us in a hush?"

You can enjoy Johannsen's magical blend of irony and innocence at the Add Art Painting Shop in Jackson and hear Cline's poetry (and read your own) at Poet's Night July 5 at 7:30 p.m., at the Hotel Leger.