Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Interview With Julienne Johnson

Julienne Johnson
untitled # 9 / cropped - mixed media oil painting
48" x 60" 2011
What do you like most about being an artist?

”Enough - if something from our hands has power to live and act, and serve the future hour”. Wordsworth said it all.

Arrogant as it may sound, I love knowing that I am leaving a legacy of having been here. Even as child I was completely fascinated with leaving things behind, like notes in buried bottles. I planted a lot of little trees too as I lived on 80 acres of forest. Thinking I would not live to be even 30 - I was a busy child with all the burying and planting. Although I believe that what really matters are the loving intangibles we leave with people whose lives we touch - some part of me (big enough to be embarrassing) still likes the idea that somebody, someday, just may see a likeness of themselves and know who I was, through a legacy of work I’m leaving behind - especially my dear son.

Is it easy to carve out time in your schedule to work?

No!  Nor have I ever made a commitment to anything that was easy to schedule.  That wouldn’t be fun.  In fact, nothing that ever came easy has ever been the least bit intriguing or challenging to me.  It’s the sacrifice that makes it so pricelessly valuable.

Are your friends and family supportive of your art making?

My husband is completely in support of my art making efforts.  I couldn’t accomplish any of what I am doing without his sacrifice and presence in my life.  My friends and what’s left of my family?   I gave up concerning myself with what they thought - a very long time ago.  Still, I know there are those who think it’s absolutely magical, but I do not wait for that.

How do you decide on your palette?

 In terms of the work I exhibit at TAG  - I don’t!   A pallet is never on my mind, although it was when I worked representationally.  While I most often begin with color, that doesn’t necessarily mean paint.   Color is a reflection of mood or undertone rather than choice; not something I concern myself with; I just follow.   I run between shapes and color and it is hard to decipher which comes first.  It has been said that I paint like a sculptor.

Can you describe your process?

It takes an enormous amount of energy.  I work with my hands (no brushes - lots of gloves) putting on, taking off, scraping, sanding, sawing, soldering and pounding.   The paintings, freestanding assemblage and metal works are all the same to me.   It’s all visceral.  I travel from application to demolition.  I cry, I laugh and I pray throughout.  Like my poetry, one word leads to another.   Months or sometimes years later I am able to comprehend what the work was about.   The viscera travel miles ahead of the brain

From idea to completion what are the steps that you take to produce your work?

I am not beginning with an idea, nor do I begin with thinking.  Although I have been there and have done that - it was only to please others.  When I worked from that approach, neither the art making nor the end result were satisfying.    Not that it wasn’t good: just that it could never convey what I had to say about anything, except on a superficial level.  I am not interested in working from that perspective.   The steps I take (daily or weekly) to produce my art works, are this: I enjoy my husband, I read, go to museums, listen to music, bake cookies, worship, make love, do my 4 miles, cook for my friends, work out at the gym, and eat a whole lot of pop corn.   

What artists, either historical or contemporary, are influential to you?

Van Gogh, Cezanne, Turner, Braque, Gorky, Rauschenberg, Hess, Twombly, Basquiat and Franklyn Liegel - among others.  When I read artist interviews, the artists I think most like in terms of attitude toward art making (according to their conversations) is De Kooning and Kline.    I like David Smith; Giacometti as well, and was relieved to discover in his numerous drawings that he too never bothered with heads and faces.  Like Tennyson said, “I am a part of all that I have met”.  I know that I owe much to other artists.

How do you know when a work is finished?

In the same way I know when I'm finished making love.

Julienne Johnson's exhibition opens June 21, 2011.

1 comment:

  1. Such refreshing, artistic, in your face, verbal honesty. Go for it Julienne.
    I am looking forward to seeing your new work. mk/NY