The unveiling of Structure for Passions

The unveiling of “Structure for Passions”
An interview with Visual artist Julienne Johnson
Interviewed by Aaron Robinson – Editor


Los Angeles based artist, Julienne Johnson brings forth an experience in her artwork that captures the attention of her viewers and collectors on a nationwide level. Johnson’s work has been exhibited at many universities and museums across the country. Some of her upcoming exhibits will include Kyusha Island in Japan, Kyoto, Bombay and Thailand, just to name a few. Recently Johnson has had an exhibition at the Metcalf Gallery at Taylor University for the unveiling of her painting “Structure for Passions” by art critic and curator, Peter Frank.

I had the opportunity to interview Julienne Johnson, who is such an amazing painter who is very passionate about her work. Here is what the gifted artist had to share about her recent event that took place at Metcalf Gallery at Taylor University, as well as her inspiration as an artist.

Aaron Robinson: What made the Metcalf Gallery exhibition unique for you?
Julienne Johnson: Most unique was that this was my first SOLO university exhibition. Also, it’s unusual for an exhibition to have four receptions, which Metcalf exhibition had. The show actually opened October 14th, with the opening receptions beginning on October 16th. There were two formal art talks (between Peter Frank, the curator and myself, and there was a casual talk at the PRESS Preview reception as well). Additionally, on the weekend, October 18th, there was a reception and casual talk during the Homecoming weekend. 


Kinexion#1
Aaron: For individuals who have not attended your shows, what would you say that they have been missing or could possibly learn while being in the presence of your art?
Julienne: My art is very different in the flesh than can be viewed from a photograph. Whether or not someone is going to respond to my work is not a given. Taste is personal. However, if someone finds the work interesting in a photograph, my experience is they’re crazy for it when confronted with the actual work. Most of my paintings have 25-30 layers of paint and glazes, which cannot be realized in a photograph or online. The build up of textures, transfers and objects cannot be seen unless they’re in front of the work. In fact, from across a room they see only composition and color.  That is all there is to much of the contemporary work seen in 2014.  However, as they walk closer to my work…they get a different picture. Up close….there is still more, my experience is that people find the work quite intriguing whether or not they respond to the work. The work invites investigation. Not to mention that people tell me that it has even greater meaning when they attend a talk and listen to an art professional and I talk about it. There are always numerous questions. I’d say the unique thing about my work is the questions it brings up.


Novi Coeptus
Aaron: Many artists have a challenging time working together because of their different creative views. What is the secret to you guys working together?
Julienne: Peter Frank is the curator of the show.  He is not an artist. Artists do not give curators problems. They are honored when a curator wants to curate their show. The curator is always in a power position. Peter edited my first book (Ashes For Beauty) and wrote in my second (Touched) and additionally wrote in the book for this show (Passion and Structure:  Julienne Johnson, 2001 - 2014). So he understands my work through investigation and contemplation, so I was thrilled to work with him.  

Aaron: When you look back on your life as an artist, what would you say has been the most rewarding attributes of your career? 
Julienne: Having my work shown in non-profit settings (universities and museums) and particularly having work accepted into the permanent collections of three museums and on permanent exhibition in two museums.  

Aaron: How do you become inspired or where do you begin to receive the inspiration before you begin to create a masterpiece work of art? 
Julienne: My inspiration comes from living life. My work is always about humanity: a visual recording of what is going on, primarily under the surface. That is, the emotional content of what is going on and how we are affected. It’s always international. My world is huge. The work is not thought out. If it were, that would make me a conceptual artist. I go to my studio to create art. I don’t have a plan when I start an artwork. I put a color or shape on a canvas (if it’s a painting) and respond to it and so forth. I create and demolish, renovate and continue that cycle until the artwork is absolutely satisfying and I see that a conversation between me and the work has taken place. Usually, only when the artwork is complete, when the paint is dry and when I am disconnected from the work, am I able to see what it’s actually about. And the work continues to speak to me. It’s not all wrapped up. I hope it is the same for the viewer and those collectors who have my work. I am working very deeply - beyond words. If I had words to plan and describe — I’d be a writer.


Touched#7
My most direct form of communication, I believe, lies in the visual, so I record what I want to say visually. I have no words for what I am painting. And when I do, that is only a partial picture of the whole.

Aaron: What piece(s) or theme(s) would you say has been the most unforgettable or that you hold dear to your heart and why? 
Julienne: All of my work feels unforgettable to me — always. I don’t stop working on a creation, be it a painting or sculpture, until I’ve done all that I can do with the artwork. My investment is immense. There are works I’ve spent 400-500 hours on, to bring to completion. When done with a work, my experience is that of being [strangely] disconnected from it…and for good reason. Artists create for varying stimuli. My motivation is that this is the platform to work out what is going on in life and how I fit in with the whole: to search for answers to those questions we may not be able to find answers for…at least, in this life. My pleasure lies in the journey — not the product that results from my journey. This is not to say there is no enjoyment [at the end] with color and composition, or that it doesn’t give me tremendous pleasure, which it does. A wonderful gift in fact, is the result of my effort. And if not — the work is incomplete.

Touched#7
Aaron: There are many talented artists or those artists who have not been discovered or haven’t had the opportunity to have financial success in the visual arts field. What do you believe are some of the ways for them to overcome those adversities in hopes of being successful? 
Julienne: My bias on this issue is that one probably has little chance of making great art while being concerned with the financial success of that art. I’d liken that to a rock and roller who has important issues that propel him to sing and write, when he is concerned primarily with writing a #1 hit so that he has enough money to pay his rent. It’s probably not going to have a good ending, for either the rock and roller or the artist driven by that motive. Those #1 hits are as rare as the mega moneymaking artists…the latter of which are most often dead before it happens. In fact, it’s more likely to happen in the secondary market, which the artist is not making money on, excepting in unique circumstances. My suggestion for an artist is to find another way to support your art so you are free enough to create as you please. However you are able to work that out. While this is not what they teach in school, the fact is that only about half of those with art degrees are working in the art business — in any capacity, probably because they are realistic. I was one of those who waited a very long time to be able to make visual art on a full time basis. Still, I had a plan…..and I had a dream. That’s what I am living now and not for even one day will I take that for granted.  It came with much sacrifice, tenacity and commitment. All of which is free and available to everyone

Aaron: Would you like to add anything in closing?  
Julienne: Yes! I’ve enjoyed your very thought provoking questions; thank you for the insight to ask them and I am very appreciative of the interview, via Briana Gustafson. Best of luck with your writing — such a noble calling.

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