It is a bittersweet task to make posthumous additions to a dear colleague's book, since the pleasure of seeing Modern Art and the Object back in print, and expanded, is inevitably compromised by my doubts in deciding which new articles Ellen Johnson herself would have included. My dilemma is lessened somewhat because, as Ellen Johnson's former student and longtime friend, and as an ex-professional art historian myself, I actually advised her extensively in the organization of the first edition of this collection of her essays. Moreover, I shared many of her views, whether on art or nature, and our sensibilities about contemporary art often overlapped. Therefore, I presumably am qualified, faute de mieux, to select the additions to her book, with the very helpful advice of her publisher, Cass Canfield, Jr.
Ellen Johnson had one of those extraordinary minds that, illnesses notwithstanding, can remain fully alert and active to the very end. In spite of multiple serious accidents and operations over the course of her last twenty-two years, she followed developments in contemporary art with indefatigable energy and interest, reading art magazines and the latest books diligently and critically, and photographing exhibitions and artists' studios right up to a year before her death, on March 23, 1992, from a second attack of cancer. After her retirement from Oberlin College in 1977, she continued to lecture extensively and to write, concluding a productive career with her touching and witty art 'memoirs', Fragments: Recalled at 80, composed during her last two years (Gallerie Publications, Vancouver, B.C., Canada, 1993).
From her articles that appeared after the first edition of this book, in 1976, Cass Canfield and I selected five essays that I feel fit the preexisting subheadings of her main theme—namely, the dialogue between art and reality as it developed in Western culture during the last hundred years. What Ellen Johnson meant by 'object' was actually everything outside the 'subject' : that is, all reality beyond the boundaries of one's body or self—not only our fabricated environment, but nature as well. Such 'outer' reality was for her not inanimate