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Posted 26 Mar 2001   For week ended March 23, 2001
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Sent on Mormon-News: 24Mar01

By Kent Larsen

Mormon Artist 'Snell' Johnson Dies

SCOTTSDALE, ARIZONA -- Mormon artist Snellan Maurice "Snell" Johnson, who turned his life around to become a renowned artist after serving five years in prison for fraud, died Saturday in Scottsdale at age 62. Johnson was described as a post-modern pop culture artist whose works include the bronze lion outside the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas (the largest bronze statue in the Western Hemisphere) and the 18-foot bronze clock in Salt Lake City that is counting down the time until the start of the 2002 Winter Olympics.

In the 12 years since his release from prison, Johnson created more than 500 bronze statues, including 350 that are life-sized or larger. The topics of his statues include horses, American Indians and other human figures. Also well-known among his works are a bronze statue at the Stratosphere Tower and a massive horse and chariot at Caesars' Gauteng, South Africa.

Johnson was born in the tiny Utah town of Myton, located in the heart of the Navajo reservation. He grew up in poverty (his family didn't have electricity until he was 13), leading him to create artwork as one of his principal sources of entertainment. While not a Native American, Johnson said that the Navajos had a profound influence on his art.

After growing up as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Johnson served a mission and attended both BYU and the University of Utah before becoming an insurance salesman in Utah. But in 1979 he was convicted of giving false information for a bank loan and then four years later of 30 counts of securities, wire and mail fraud for bilking investors in a satellite navigation company out of $2 million. Sentenced to 25 years in prison, he served five before being released.

At that point his life changed radically. Johnson decided to return to creating artwork, relying on his self-developed talent to provide large-scale bronze statues for prominent buildings and locations. In this he found success on a scale he hadn't reached before prison, selling his work for upwards of $400,000, while creating statues at a rate of better than three a month.


Creator of MGM Grand's lion, Johnson dies at 62
Las Vegas NV Sun 22Mar01 A2
By Ed Koch: Las Vegas Sun

See also:

Bronze Sculpture by Snell Johnson


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