Sunday, November 8, 2015

Artist Melissa D Johnston Revisited

I discovered Melissa Johnston through an online art community six or seven years ago. At the time I was struck by her Visual Poetry (VisPo) and the spirit of her work. As a result I interviewed her here in February 2010. A month or two ago some of her recent work that I had been seing on Twitter caught my eye and I decided it would be good time to do a follow-up.

EN: It’s fascinating where your Visual Poetry explorations have taken you. Much of your current work combines photographic imagery with digital collage. What would you call what you are doing now?

Melissa D. Johnston: The umbrella classification for my work would be “digital art,” which technically would cover what I do with digital collage, digital painting, and photo manipulation, whether done with a camera, Photoshop, or an iPhone. In that, the designation isn’t different (in terms of media) from what I did and do with VisPo. The difference now is that all of my images are my own photography (in the beginning with VisPo I used stock photography for collages) and some of my works are more focused on and bring out the photographic aspect of the works.

EN: Your work makes an emotional and evocative connection that draws viewers in. How do you determine your subject matter?

MDJ: Thank you very much. In many ways I feel like my subject matter chooses me and not the other way around. Almost everything starts with photography now in terms of artistic process, and so many of these shots are serendipitous. I’ll be out somewhere (or maybe even in my own backyard) and something strikes me with its intrigue, beauty, or maybe even with a difference that could be registered as ugliness but I find very attractive. I’ll begin taking shots and before I know it I have 100 or 200 (or sometimes many more) of not just that particular thing but all the other things around me that I’m now able to see in a way I couldn’t before. Inevitably these incidents produce at least one photograph that proves integral later to a work. Maybe not that day or even three months later. But sometime in the future I’ll be scrolling through my photographs and one will beckon me and I’m off—making it the foundation for a new piece. In a way the process of taking photos and creating digital collage are the same in terms of intuition and feeling. All of my shots are very intuitive, as is the process of building a larger piece that brings in many more images.

EN: You seem extremely prolific. Can you identify what is driving you?

MDJ: Thank you. I don’t feel very prolific a lot of times and I definitely go in and out of periods of productivity. I’d never really thought of myself as being “driven” in regard to art. It’s one of the few things that in and of itself calms me down and actually gives me energy, not take it away—even when I’m frustrated as hell with a piece. This is true both with photography and with the creation of digital art. But lately, in working on a show I have coming up, I’ve realized there really is something deeper directing some of the pieces, if not the pursuit in general. I believe that art taps into the unconscious and I also believe that creativity is healing in and of itself. This gives a chance for the silenced parts of me (most of whom were silenced through trauma) to speak. The creation of art is an act of attention on my part—a listening that makes space for those formerly silenced voices and makes space for a dialogue with them, one that seems easiest for me to access through art. The latest series I’ve been working on, “Eternal Childhood,” very much seems to be directed by a dialogue with the formerly silenced parts of myself.

EN: Have you been showing your work locally somewhere? Any upcoming shows?

MDJ: Yes! I have been showing locally (and elsewhere) for some time, but I have my first solo show, called “Story” opening soon—Tuesday, November 17—at Old Town Public House in Cornelius, NC. The main works for the show are from the “Eternal Childhood” series. These pieces feature children in fantastical or dreamlike scenarios and/or places. Each work is paired with a very short fairy tale/fable I’ve written. At the opening and the two other receptions we’ve planned, these images and stories are woven together chronologically by my personal account of the journey of healing childhood trauma. So these receptions are part art exhibition, part reading, and part artist talk—but all story, highlighting different stages and aspects of my own personal story at each reception.

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Visit Melissa D. Johnston's Instagram page.
Visit her Flickr collection here.
Here is a link to her website:
The Door
Meantime, art goes on all around you. Engage it.


Melissa said...

Ed, Thank you so very much for your interest in my art. It was and is such an encouragement!

Unknown said...

I have known Melissa and been following her journey during the period referenced here. I think the art took on a new life when she transitioned from using a combination of her photography and stock photos, to just solely using her own work, greater depth and baring her soul a little more as she gets deeper into these pieces

Ed Newman said...

Thanks for the information about Melissa's work. Very nice insight.
In another life it is the direction I would like to go with my own painting someday (after I retire and have the time)....
Yes, it really is like a journey.
Melissa, we wish you the best in yours.

Anne Flournoy said...

Great to get to know more about Melissa D.Johnston of Creative Thresholds. I couldn't agree more that creativity is healing ... and EXPANDING. Thank you for publishing this!

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