An Interview with Artist Jeremy Johnson – Painting with Subtle Sophistication

Jeremy Johnson’s paintings express an energy born of a hard-earned clarity of purpose. Surviving a brain tumor, Johnson values his choices more than many people can – and he chooses to pursue art and creativity.

Jeremy Johnson and I collaborated on an online arts project a few years back and since then I’ve watched his audience grow on social media and seen his name on more than a few show announcements, from Southern California to Chicago . (I also happen to have one of his paintings hanging in my house.)

An Interview with Artist Jeremy Johnson – Painting with Subtle Sophistication

One of the things I like most about Johnson’s art is his emphasis on subtle sophistication. Many of his compositions use color in an abstract style to successfully create emotive statements that are hard to reduce or simplify, but which resonate and draw you in.

A sensibility comes through in his non-representational painting, which is really saying something when it comes to abstract work. But just take a look at Johnson’s deceptively designed paintings (deceptive because they seem simple at first but are actually layered and thorough) and you see a distinct aesthetic at work. His paintings may be abstract, but they are not at all accidental.

Creating an online store, doing commissioned work and branching out with his art in new directions, the last few years have seen Johnson taking on new challenges and forging ahead.

After seeing some pictures from Jeremy Johnson’s recent show at Millennium Park Art Gallery in Chicago , I caught up with the artist and asked him a few questions about his painting, his inspirations, and the new directions he is taking with his art.

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Jeremy JohsonEric: Is there a central idea behind your art? A message, a goal, or a specific inspiration that you are articulating with each piece of art you make?

Jeremy Johnson: No I don’t usually start a painting with a goal other than for it to move me. That’s how I know I’m finished – when it sends a surge of emotions through my body then I know I’ve reached my goal.

Eric: Some of your new paintings are using iconography and cultural icons but seem to be outgrowths of the style of color compositions you’ve developed. What made you choose to start doing representational paintings?

Jeremy Johnson: I chose to paint representational work to show people I have a wide range of styles. Representational comes easier to me than abstract. Though after my surgery, I have muscle twitches that make representational more complicated for me.

Abstract art is something I believe happened only after my brain surgery. It triggered the emotional part of my brain to think with colors and create things I’d never imagined.

Eric: Can you name a few artists whose work has inspired you? Famous artists or up-and-coming artists you admire or follow?

Jeremy Johnson: Gerhard Richter is my favorite artist. Art Voka is probably my favorite realism artist.

Eric: You recently hinted to me that you are looking to move into a new direction with your art and possibly work in a different medium. What do you have in mind?

Jeremy Johnson: I’ve never wanted to settle on one style or type of media.

I would like to expand into all types of media including photography and metal art, furniture making and whatever I can do to expand and continue to test my skills.

Eric: I’ve seen pictures of paintings you’ve done of sports logos for fans of the Blackhawks, the Bears, the Broncos and other teams. I’m sure these pieces really sell, which is great for any artist. Do they also give you any ideas for new work or any insights into what turns a viewer into a buyer?

Jeremy Johnson: I want to be able to paint a wide variety of art to accommodate a variety of tastes.

So…painting logos…they do sell and help me with my practice on detail. But I prefer to attack a piece without any planning – let it speak to me and become something from nothing.


You can follow artist Jeremy Johnson at his page on FB and see his art at his online store and website.

“The Morae River”: Opening Gallery Reception November 20th at Sagebrush Cafe

Brynn Metheney’s fantastic series of illustrations, “The Morae River”, is set to be introduced to the Antelope Valley in a new show at Sagebrush Café Coffee & Art House in Quartz Hill. (Info).

 Saturday, November 20th from 5 to 8 pm    

www.sagebrush-cafe.com

 

Metheney grew up in the Mojave Desert and went on to graduate from California College of the Arts and Crafts. “The Morae River” highlights Metheney’s long-standing interest in creatures, both real and imagined, as it explores the interconnections shared by science, art and fantasy.

 Though her processes and techniques of illustrating “The Morae River” may seem relatively simple—drawing, scanning, and coloring—the final product reveals an artistry of diverse and complex talents that awe the viewer. Metheney says of her methods: “Recently I have been working exclusively in photoshop CS3 – doing the pencil drawing with a fine digital brush and then laying in color underneath the line work.”

 Her work has appeared in a number of places including WIRED Magazine, Sort of Podcast, Science, St. Mary’s College Magazine, i09.com, drawn.ca, linesandcolors.com. Metheney currently lives and works as a freelance illustrator in Oakland, California.

  

As you may know, AV Arts Blog is closely associated with Sagebrush Café and we teamed up to do an interview with Brynn Metheney in anticipation of the upcoming show.

 

Q: What is the inspiration behind “The Morae River” project?
The Morae River started out as an exercise in world building and creature design. It came about in spring 2008 after a college review. I presented a series of fictional creatures to my professors and they suggested that I explore them more since it was what I was really passionate about. It seemed natural and I quickly fell in love with the idea of creating a context to relate my creatures back to.

Immediately, I began work on a world where I could come up with species that would grow and evolve along with their environment as animals do here on Earth. The idea of a river as the center of my project came first and everything fell into place from there. What started out as a portfolio exercise to get work, turned into a personal exploration in drawing, evolution and writing.

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J. Osterberg at the Lofts Gallery

To whom it may concern, 

Here is my piece. In case anyone misinterprets it, here’s what I mean by it: 

As unemployment rates grow, the separation between the poor and rich is greater than ever. I feel that the inclusion of stores like Walmart in our towns hurt the creativity that this valley can produce. Look at all the great local shops that have to compete with large corporations who can afford to pay the high rent here. 

It’s an unfair system and I’ve talked to people and businesses all around the valley that we live in. The voices are all saying the same thing, but everybody is afraid to say something. Even myself. 

Just like there’s a real threat of terrorism from the middle east, there’s an equal threat of religious extremism here. I may not be a believer of any specific religion, but I am a believer in equality.

If we all accept our differences in beliefs rather than judge others for them, maybe there wouldn’t be so much anger towards one another. Then maybe we can save that wasted energy and put it back into the community in which we live in. Only then, I believe, will things actually get better.

Thank you for the opportunity to express my opinion, 

J. Osterberg

4/21/10

AV Artist Interviews

 

A ntelope Valley Arts has been lucky enough to interview two local artists on matters of their work and what they think of the art scene in the Antelope Valley.

Larissa Nickel and AJ Currado could not be much further apart in their assessements of AV art and yet they both express accurate visions of the AV art world.

The two artists work in very different ways. Their methods and subjects are discussed in detail in the interviews.

Read their interviews here:

Antelope Valley Artist Interview: Larissa Nickel

Antelope Valley Arts blog recently posed a set of questions to Antelope Valley multi-media artist Larissa Nickel.

Describe the AV “art scene” in a few words.

Isolated, disjunctive, decorative, but full of potential.

What has been your personal experience with shows in and around the Antelope Valley?

As an arts patron, I’ve felt that shows in the Antelope Valley have been very redundant. The same themes appear over and over with poppies, antelopes, landscapes and aerospace being the major representations. It’s AV kitsch-without being acknowledged as kitsch. It interests me to challenge the AV art scene to figure out the concept behind these themes, rather than a concrete representational portrayal of objects or imagery. For example: the aerospace industry was incredibly influential in the development of the California art aesthetic in the 1960s, devising new materials and methods for artists—such as Craig Kauffman—to envision unique and individually Californian artwork. Those developments occurred specifically in this region and within our dominating aerospace specialty. I’ve always wondered why the AV arts have never taken pride in that accomplishment or development. It should be an exciting example of the possibility for finding and establishing an intelligent and thoughtful identity or niche within an existing art scene- a mirror for the development of an art community in the AV just outside of LA.

As an artist working in the AV, I’ve had trouble finding venues willing to exhibit my work. The censorship quotient is very high and presents a variety of roadblocks for artistic expression and arts development. I’m very proud to have been a small part of the artist lofts opening show, which actually exhibited my work freely and with respect to my vision. Amanda (from the Arbor Lofts) is amazing to work with and completely understood my artistic perspective in a way that hasn’t been appreciated out here before. Without her involvement, the arts wouldn’t have had the push that they did, and I’m extremely grateful to her for driving that initiative, displaying leadership and belief in what the arts can accomplish.

As an arts professional working at the museum, I’ve tried to uphold four values that I believe in as an artist: idealism or thinking about the ways things could be-not simply what they are, and striving towards actions in that vein; intimacy or communication and quality of contact between people, artist’s, the arts and social responsibility; depth or being thorough and complete, thinking, questioning and reflecting with an understanding of the value and purpose of a museum; and lastly interconnectedness-between community, the environment, organizations, and humanity. These are very personal goals that I also feel a museum as an establishment should strive towards as well. Professionally, the exhibitions, programs, fundraising, museum identity, and arts relationships that I’ve tried to accomplish have all been geared towards demonstrating these ideals and beliefs.

Will you be submitting works to the juried show at the LMAG this year?

No.

What are some specific challenges to showing art, producing art, etc. in the Antelope Valley?

There really is no art market in this area. As an artist, it makes very little sense to show in the AV, especially with LA right next door. There aren’t any art buyers here, there aren’t any ways to build your reputation or get noticed by galleries or curators, there is a lack of support for artistic expression, and it takes so much work to actually get a show in this area, plus many venues aren’t professional. In terms of producing art, there aren’t any art supply resources; there isn’t a strong community of artists to interact with, and the shows that are being exhibited lack an interest or knowledge in art history and theory making it difficult to engage with, or find inspiration in any meaningful way. The AV is definitely an artistic challenge.

What are some specific benefits and opportunities to showing art, producing art, etc. in the AV?

There exists in this area, an incredible opportunity to build a thriving art scene that seeks to build a more complicated, meaningful, engaged, and enriched experience for everyone. Due to the lack of a strong definition of art in the region, there is free territory to explore what that definition would be or consist of-it is a freedom unknown in other areas. There are endless possibilities for building and influencing this community in a very positive way. It’s both exciting and frustrating. The shows I’ve participated in have all been reflections of my belief that art can have an impact in this area. My hope is that the AV will begin to engage with the larger art scene, and develop an intelligent artistic community that assists this area in overcoming its negativities or artistic challenges.

How has the AV influenced your art in terms of subject?

My subject matter has always been geared towards an investigation of identity and the self through personal narrative. As an artist working in the Antelope Valley, the AV has been an integral part of my experience and therefore my art. The people I meet, the frustrations I feel, the road blocks I encounter are all expressed in my work. I’ve noticed that the subjects of loneliness or wandering have made a strong appearance in my work since I’ve moved here. One particular component that has been developing through my AV years is this role of place, space, and relationships in personal identity.

Recently I’ve been looking towards relationships or connections between people and places as a way of mapping identity or connecting. The vast and isolated space of the desert area, which sits right next to a major urban city, is an interesting juncture and influence and represents a type of void, paralysis or death in a way.

How has the AV influenced your art in terms of style?

Stylistically, the Antelope Valley hasn’t had much impact on my philosophy or work outside of the influencing the experiences or subjects that I display. The philosophy of my work revolves around a concept of reclaimed data archive which allows me to freely explore any medium, style or time period that suites my interest through an awareness of the internal and external impulses that I experience. In my investigation of identity, I view the self as devising a singular perspective or viewpoint patched out of the many influences, memories, interests, ephemera, etc. that is recorded through personal experience. All the works I create are focused in this direction, yet the medium, the look, the style change between each piece relying on the concept to create coherence between outputs. My experiences in the AV are just one portion of a much more abstract journey.

Set B.
What is the artist’s role in society and how does that relate to the community/society of the Antelope Valley?

Artists are the visionaries, the inventors, the risk takers, the challengers, the questioners of society. They are observers, able to experience and appreciate things outside of themselves. Artists propel and drive society forward through their unique ability to envision and invoke change, challenge existing norms, see the unseen, investigate the overlooked, collaborate with a community, etc. Particularly in an area such as the Antelope Valley-that is attempting to engage and harness an artistic perspective-the community of artists needs to expand, evolve, and develop the attributes of intuition, empathy, collaboration, leadership, and strength.

Artistic strength is not commonly spoken of, but is one reason that the arts are such a necessary force for the development of societies. Existing simultaneously outside and within the political system in order to comment, address, and illustrate ways of progressing, thinking or being is incredibly difficult and requires the artistic impulse to overcome the political dimension, or the lack of vision. Although politics exist in any given situation, there are many different ways of maneuvering within that system. Caving to a traditional politically organized commodity system conveys a lack of ability in understanding the myriad of means to an ends. Mutual respect is a much better answer-especially when it creates synergy. That synergy between two opposing groups is what grows an intellectual mind and the arts are like the flame to the rocket of that synergy.

In your opinion, what role does art play in the AV?

The current art scene in the AV lacks any real depth. Engaging with the work is very difficult and not very fruitful. The statements are very basic-the desert is beautiful, the flowers are beautiful, the animals are beautiful. There really isn’t much being said. For that reason, art has not played much of a role in the Antelope Valley so far. It decorates the walls of spaces, but isn’t providing any content for growth, questioning life, fulfillment or spirituality or social cause. Where is the vision, the commentary, the risk-taking, the questioning?

There have been a number of people working outside these boundaries, but the infighting, political climate and control have not embraced the artists who are saying more in their work, and sadly they simply withdraw from the scene or escape to LA. Embracing a new vision and a new artistic perspective gives this area an incredible opportunity for growth. It will be interesting to see whether the true support and respect needed to obtain success will be understood and valued enough to make any gains in the artistic arena. The current role for the artist’s in this area is to challenge and create an evolution in this community that truly impacts people’s lives and invokes curiosity in the world around them-a world outside of the AV.

How has the artist’s role changed in the last fifty or one hundred years, if it has changed?

Artists have become more entrenched in a new form of social public art that appreciates and requires artistic insight and impulse in the redevelopment and revitalization of communities and social spheres. Art that exists outside of museums or galleries, and relies on the participation and interaction of people has grown from Fluxus and performance art movements, and has been driven by an increasing technological globalization and demand for social media and worldwide interaction.

The interactive approach has driven public art into a wide-ranging opportunity for art to integrate into its urban environment. Contemporary art, installation art, participatory art, have allowed artists to involve themselves in many areas of society. The role of artist has been merging with architecture, graphic design, and public space becoming an engaged encounter with the world around us. Art embraces you.

Is art important? How?

Of course, it’s essential. Art is like your soul—unless you’re a sofa, you might need one.

Can you compare the profession of painting to any other professions or forms of art?

Painting translates in many ways to other professions or other forms of art. The ability to visualize an end result and work towards that vision through the difficulties and unexpected occurrences is universal between art forms, general business, and in life. My work involves experimenting with other forms of art in order to reinvigorate the meaning of painting or art by exploring the concepts integral to these other forms. Incorporating the cinematic or time based component, concepts of installation, performance, the recording mechanism of drawing, the dimension of sculpture, concepts of categorizing, archiving or curating, the joy of music, the thought of poetry/literature, all develop into a wide-ranging philosophy or artistic vernacular that keeps me interested and invigorated.

Antelope Valley Arts Blog Interview with AJ Currado

      We recently sat down to an email interview with Antelope Valley Artist & Painter AJ Currado. Her work is currently on display at the LM/AG 25th Annual Juried Art Show in downtown Lancaster as well as at Sagebrush Café in Quartz Hill.

Describe the AV “art scene” in a few words.

Surprisingly growing and healthy! We have a lot of talented artists in the area and they are tired of driving far away to enter somebody else’s art scene – which is often elite or pretentious anyways. I think they’re finally rising up and creating a vibrant community here, locally. The city of Lancaster is actually (finally) doing some great things for the arts as well with the new artists’ lofts/gallery and new LMAG opening up next year. even in this economy the city is keeping an open budget for fine art.

What has been your personal experience with shows in and around the Antelope Valley?

Hit and miss. I’ve shown at the Cedar Centre, at LMAG, at AVC as a student, and in various coffee shops and a few of our art show/festival opportunities. Most prestigious and largely attended is the Annual Juried at LMAG and it is always encouraging to see my work up with local artists I admire like Glen Knowles and Frank Dixon. The Fair is a joke as far as art is concerned and isn’t worth the bother. I think the most fun and vibrant experience I’ve had has actually been at Sagebrush. I’ve met fascinating people, had great conversations, made connections, and have had excellent sales. I’ve enjoyed the other artists who have shown there as well and even made art purchases myself. People aren’t caught up in creating their own “artsy image” but rather by being part of an artistic community.

Will you be submitting works to the juried show at the LMAG this year?

Haha! I didn’t see this question before… Yes, actually, I did submit works. I submitted three and two were accepted. I went to the opening tonight and had a fantastic time running into lots of people I know, have met at Sagebrush, and meeting new artists.

What are some specific challenges to showing art, producing art, etc. in the Antelope Valley?

Showing is the hardest part. Driving down to LA to get a load of supplies for a series of works is an enjoyable field trip, but attempting to show down there is a pain. I’ve shown at a few galleries and it hardly seems worth the trouble. As far as showing locally, the hard part is getting the people to see the work.

What are some specific benefits and opportunities to showing art, producing art, etc. in the AV?

Local! It’s so much more enjoyable to meet the people looking at/buying your art. Creating friendships and connections not only is good for sales but also getting inspired by regular interactions with artists. Artists out here are more relaxed and often humble. Some of the pros will go out plein air painting with anybody who wants to join and offer tips. They aren’t snobby about their success. It’s that small-town vibe where everybody knows at least a friend of yours if not you.

How has the AV influenced your art in terms of subject?

Hmmm…I don’t know. I use a lot of travel photos and memories for reference. But I am also obsessed with leaves. I like the desert, I like our sunsets, our buttes, our winters and autumns and springs, our explosion of wild flowers and delicate greenery in spring. I suppose I am influenced by the openness, the delicate details that you have to look for, else it’s swallowed up in the vast brown. You can hate this place and complain about it, but if you really look at it, up close, quietly, if you really explore, it is beautiful. And that’s how I like my art. I want people to go up close to it, to look at it quietly, one-on-one. To discover it’s understatement. I don’t want it to scream for attention, but to wait for attention from those who are willing to pause.