Islip stakes claim to artist native to Florence
If by chance you find yourself in Islip, New York this month, they are celebrating Black History Month by featuring the art of Florence native William Henry Johnson at the town hall.
Newsday tells the Johnson story while giving only the slightest nod to his roots, calling him a South Carolina native:
“Prints of more than a dozen of the South Carolina native’s oil paintings are on display, including portraits of black heroes such as Harriet Tubman, Booker T. Washington and George Washington Carver, street scenes of Harlem, chronicles of life in America during World War II and ‘Flowers’ — which appeared on a U.S. postage stamp in 2012.”
Johnson and his artist wife Holcha Krake are featured prominently at Florence County Museum, a cultural anchor in revitalized downtown cultural district in Florence (and 2019 recipient of the Verner Award in the government category). The museum certainly claims Johnson as belonging to Florence. It’s certainly not The Hub’s intent to start or step into any civic rivalries, but Johnson spent the last 23 years of his life in Central Islip State Hospital, according to Newsday, “hospitalized for mental illness caused by syphilis.” He moved from Florence at 17, but spend the bulk of his life residing and creating in Harlem.