Midlands-raised artist to be awarded nation's highest civilian honor

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - A contemporary artist who was raised and educated in the Midlands has been named a 2010 recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the White House announced on Wednesday.

Jasper Johns will be awarded the nation's highest civilian honor at a ceremony early next year. Johns, 80, was raised in Columbia, Irmo and Sumter, and attended the University of South Carolina in the 1940s.

Johns has since produced a distinguished body of work dealing with themes of perception and identity since the mid-1950s. Among his best known works are depictions of familiar objects and signs, including flags, targets and numbers. He has incorporated innovative approaches to materials and techniques, and his work has influenced pop, minimal, and conceptual art.

"These outstanding honorees come from a broad range of backgrounds and they've excelled in a broad range of fields, but all of them have lived extraordinary lives that have inspired us, enriched our culture, and made our country and our world a better place," President Barack Obama said on Wednesday. "I look forward to awarding them this honor."

The Presidential Medal of Freedom is presented to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.

Other 2010 recipients include President George H.W. Bush, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, civil rights hero and current Congressman John Lewis, poet Maya Angelou, philanthropist Warren Buffet, Holocaust survivor Gerda Klein, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, and baseball legend Stan "The Man" Musial.

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