Kerri Lee Johnson, Processionary Activities

You know Kerri as many things, a wondertitan of many disciplines. I wanted to talk to her about her art, alone, because I have loved it for a long time. I loved it before I knew and loved her gallery BLANKSPACE which she runs with her husband Jason Byers. I loved it before I even knew about ART MURMUR which she is intrinsically complicit in organizing. I loved it way before I knew of BAYVAN, her network of artist and curators she works with. She lives her work. Her studio is most often the store front of her gallery on San Pablo Ave.

The images below are studio shots of her works in progress, to see her finished work you will need to go see her show at Fort Mason next month.

Click here to go Kerri Lee Johson’s art website. Click on each image to enlarge and scroll down to read an interview related to my studio visit.

Obi: Are the animals to you totemic, some how? Do they represent particular ideas, like the horse means this and the birds symbolize that…

Kerri: indirectly yes, I think of horses as a smart, strong willed and strong bodied, yet sleek and beautiful, it seems the correct animal to use when drawing the women. The birds are kind of hawk, hybrids I guess, I think of hawks as strong, intelligent and beautiful. I also think it is interesting how a bird, which though small can be so strong and high on the food chain.

Obi: The idea of Procession figures prominently in your work? Is it musical, or tied to religion?

Kerri: both actually, many of the religious processions involve music. I grew up catholic and was exposed to many rituals and processionary activities. It is a reocurring theme in my work and something that continues to influence my artmaking. I am fascinated by iconography and the idea of building effigies and making offerings to the unknown.

Obi: How about the Water? I asked you before if the water was God and you said no…Can you explain how you use the motif; a wave, a flood, et al.

Kerri: I guess one could interpret the wave as symbolic of god or a higher force. I think of it as the cleanser almost, a purifier. I am not intending it to reference Noah and the flood, but I guess I am playing off of many religious beliefs. rogue waves and floods are also something in nature that occurs and we have no control over them and as with other things we cannot control or often predict, we fear it. So I guess yes, it could become a stand in for god or any other unknown force or being.

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Having grown up in MA near the ocean, I have a profound respect and admiration of its beauty and power. Along with that though, I also harbor a strong fear. I was exposed to many whaling and maritime museums as a child and the stories of lost fishermen and storms stuck with me. I also appreciate the shear vastness of the ocean and the unpredictability of water and waves. Water is so steeped in symbolism that I could go on for hours….at the end of the day my images are drawn from my own imagination, fears, hopes and desires. I think of them almost as parables.
Kerri Lee Johnson
with Emily Payne and David Ian Clark
September 3- -October 8
opening reception: Friday, September 4th 5:30pm-7:30pm
CLOSING RECEPTION: Saturday, Oct 3rd 3:30-5:30pm
SFMOMA Artists Gallery,
Building A Fort Mason CenterSF, CA 94123
gallery hours: Tuesday- Saturday 11:30am – 5:30pm


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