On this day, she's not topless

STEPHANIE AARONSON / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Moira Johnston opted for a blouse instead of pasties yesterday at the Art Museum.
STEPHANIE AARONSON / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Moira Johnston opted for a blouse instead of pasties yesterday at the Art Museum.
Posted: June 11, 2013

Today on PhillyDailyNews.com:See a full photo slide show of Moira Johnston walking around Center City topless.

NO ONE IS STARING at the activist for toplessness who sits on a brown leather bench inside the Philadelphia Museum of Art, her eyes affixed to the repeating patterns and undulating lines on the wall.

That's because Moira Johnston is wearing a shirt.

It's Sunday, the final day of the museum's Outsider Art exhibit, and in her headphones a narrator describes how the self-taught artist Ramon Martinez spent most of his life in mental institutions: Ramirez created his works under exceptional circumstances.

Johnston, 30, a Haverford High grad, lives in upstate New York and teaches yoga. It was yoga, she says, that made her decide one day to take her top off, and she's been doing it regularly since - including last week in Rittenhouse Square - to dispel the mystique of mammaries.

"I've been an artist's model and a topless dancer," she says. "That's why it's never been an issue for me."

Johnston shares the museum bench with Danny Hain, a Philly hostel manager, and it looks like a date: a small kiss on the cheek, whispers in the ears and, every now and then, fingers intertwined down by their sides. He sees a drawing of a bluebird and quotes poet Charles Bukowski: "There's a bluebird in my heart."

"This would look great in the hostel," she says as they stand to examine a Mississippi-born barber's work.

Together they admire the homespun art of eccentric people who bent corrugated metal into fanciful window shades to keep out the spirits or hoped to fend off sickness with wires and string.

"I'm really curious how this healing machine works," Johnston says of a contraption made by Emery Blagdon.

"Apparently it doesn't," Hain says, noticing that Blagdon died of cancer.

Most of the artists whose work is on display never saw a dime or lived to experience anyone appreciating their talents.

Johnston considers herself an activist, not an artist.

Soon she'll head back to New York, but some who saw her in Rittenhouse Square will likely stay abreast of her activities.

- Jason Nark

Chillin' Wit' is a regular feature of the Daily News that spotlights a name in the news away from the job.

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