By David Seaman | Echo
Aristotle once said, "The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance." Julienne Johnson, award-winning international artist, hopes her art embodies this ideal.
As a Los Angeles-based artist who has lived all over the U.S., Johnson first studied art at Taylor with the class of '64. Her paintings reside in permanent museum collections and exhibitions everywhere from Michigan to Thailand, and she has exhibited in Qatar and California.
Renowned art critic and curator Peter Frank is overseeing a solo retrospect of Johnson's work titled "Structure and Passion: Julienne Johnson, 2008-2014." Made possible by Taylor friends Roger and Naomi Muselman, the exhibit will include 15 to 18 works from previous Johnson collections such as "Kinexion," "Touched," "Ashes for Beauty" and more. The display opened last night in Metcalf Gallery and will close Nov. 7.
Johnson's work includes mixed media paintings and assemblage sculpture. Oil, crayon, graphite and Chinese ink are mixed in between many layers of paint and glazes, giving the paintings an abstract but warm tone. Many contain brushes stuck to the works, blending in with the backgrounds. A sculpture from a salvaged remnant of a devastating fire in Big Bear, Calif., along with artwork from Johnson's "Kinexion," which relates to communication through social media, round out the exhibit.
"By employing collage, Johnson not only signals her interest in the world outside the studio, but directly engages that world in her art," said Frank, who currently serves as art critic for The Huffington Post and associate editor of Fabrik Magazine. "Her art becomes no mere reflection of contemporary life, but becomes a physical part of life's tissue-and vice versa."
Frank sees meaning in art through the artist themselves. By producing art as generally and skillfully as possible, Frank feels that meaning will not come off as forced but natural. "You can't seek to influence, you can only contribute," Frank said in a talk to students and faculty on Tuesday.
Johnson admits she doesn't give specific meaning to her art, but people find meaning through it. One of her paintings, "Zephaniah" had a touching affect on an Hungarian Buddhist.
"(The Buddhist) stood in front of that painting and couldn't control her crying," Johnson recalled. "She said, 'It's so beautiful. It's my life.' I didn't know what I was doing, but she saw something."
"It is a form of worship for me," Johnson continued. "God molds me and shapes me through my work."
Many of Johnson's pieces deal with how she sees the world. Besides her "Kinexion" series, her piece "Ozymandias," a layered pink piece, deals with momentary beauty.
"I was sent to Doha, Qatar, where women had their faces covered," she said. "That changed my work. It became muted, like the color in Doha. Like everything covered in sand."
Doha has some of the most beautiful architecture structures in the world. "But it was all so temporary, like (the Shelley poem) 'Ozymandias,'" Johnson said. "You got the sense of the old because of the surrounding poverty."
Ultimately, Johnson's work is hopeful, but she understands that hope can only come through God. "I am full of hope," Johnson said. "But I am grieved (with) what is going on in the world. There is no communication, it's not real."
Johnson pointed to the sky. "It can only come from this connection," she said. She then pointed at me. "And this connection."
"Passions and Structure" will be open to the public from now until Nov. 7 on Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m in the Metcalf Gallery. A lecture and discussion titled "So So SoHo So Long: The Re-Emergence of Art Around America" will be held today at 4 p.m. in Metcalf 002. On Saturday, Oct. 18, people can meet Julienne Johnson from 1-2 p.m. in Metcalf Gallery. A book about Johnson's works with an introductory essay by Peter Frank will be published for the exhibition and be available for purchase in Metcalf Gallery.