When I started trying to promote my own artwork online I kept coming across other people's art that amazed or compelled me in one way or another. This blog has been a way for me to practice thinking and writing about art, as well as learning more about my peers and all the incredible art that is being made out there.

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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Jackie K. Johnson

"Lures at Mill’s Edge"   2014   oil on canvas   48” x 60”
photo by
Aaron Johanson

"Paragraphs Stand in Dance"   2014   oil on canvas   48” x 60”photo by Aaron Johanson

"Stories Off the Hip #2"   2012   oil on canvas   40.75" x 32.75"

"Thinking of Shad"   2010  oil on canvas   48.75" x 60.5"

"Stories Off the Hip #1"   2012  oil on canvas   40.75" x 32.75"
"Hand Work"  1993  clay   12" x 7.5" x 8.5"
Jackie K. Johnson has a new show of work up in May at Laura Russo Gallery in Portland, Oregon, which means I get to actually go see it. I'm not sure if I've ever seen abstract art that suggested a narrative potential to me so strongly. On the face of it, this doesn't make all that much sense. How can abstract art be narrative?

Clearly the abstraction is not complete. There are representational references, not least of which is the three dimensional modeling of the shapes, suggesting that they are not simply shapes, but things, and things have names. The human mind giddily imposes meaning on everything it absorbs. In some of the paintings I see trees and leaves, hills and waterways, and bits of architecture as if they were aerial landscapes or maps.

The reference to landscape is at times unmistakable. But they don't strike me as just any kind of map or scene, mere depictions of a place, but maps as interpretive illustration, depicting journeys or histories. Some even use the imagery of lures and bobbers to accompany the occasional fish like forms that hover cloud-like overhead, lending the pieces even more specificity to their potential interpretation. And yet they remain inscrutably, mysteriously abstract.

Some of her work is organized quite differently, suggesting a kind of arranged presentation, a still life perhaps, but still grounded in a story, like Marsden Hartley's famous "Portrait of a German Officer". The fact that they are titled "Stories off the Hip" gives me hope that my narrative reaction to the work is not so far off base. Some of her older sculptural work is more obviously representational but somehow less narrative and more purely visual. But there is a definite visual consistency between them and the paintings.

I may be way off base about the whole narrative issue but it hardly matters. At any rate, artistic intent isn't everything. Skill and a practiced hand can lead artists to accomplish things beyond their ideas, and preconception can be a restraint on creative potential. At the very least these are a hell of a lot of fun to look at. I'm looking forward to doing so in person very soon.

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