June's Alumni of the Month

Steven Johnson

Every month, we highlight an alumni from the ADiM department and catch up with them. 

What have you been up to since leaving CCBC? 

I attended Maryland Institute College of Art directly after CCBC. From there, I moved to New York for graduate school at the New York Academy of Art. After the first year, I had an apartment fire, lost everything, and started exclusively drawing full-time. I started teaching that next fall, had a solo exhibition at Notre Dame of Maryland in 2017, and did an art fair in (Art Bangal) 2018. Recently, I completed the Don Bachardy Residency at the Royal Drawing School in London in Mid-March.

What art projects are you currently working on and how does it compare to your work at CCBC?

I honestly think that I have had the same "project" since I started making art. I've always wanted to see art of people who look like "me"; that's vague, I know, but, think about it... How much Art shows Black/Poc Bodies, Disabled Bodies, Poor, Queer, etc? The aforementioned intersections affect my life. Compared to the art of Empire and the "West" and all that pay homage to it (read: white and male adjacent)  positive  imagery  is  in  sparse supply. Imagery 

and "content" is getting more progressive, but it's a glacial pace and long overdue. I make drawing about this need to champion Other-ed bodies. Someone has to advocate for the beauty of that scorned and shunned diversity. Non-White America needs a better PR person, and I aim to somehow support that role, if not fill it myself.

What’s your current art process like? How does it compare to when you were at CCBC?

These days, I make a drawing 3 times. the first time is always in my Emotions/Feelings, always, I have a lot of feelings. A practice without empathy is un-requited Labor. My emotions are my road map to understanding who I am, and whom I am possibly speaking to. The "Who" is always changing every time someone sees your work. The drawing is an emotional response to the world around me. The second drawing is made in my mind. My mind and emotions must agree. The what, when, why must agree with my emotional road map. I begin to sketch and write here. Sometimes, the sketch is just in my mind, sometimes it's just a feeling written down at 2 am. Other times, it's weeks thinking of a song, or book, and how it made me feel. The best drawings come from time spent with people. I only make the drawing after I have sat with it inside me. Finally, I make the drawing physically, as many times as needed. Sometimes this process happens instantaneously. When all the parts of me are functioning together. But, as you can imagine, during times of high stress and stimuli, it can get rocky; but sometimes those are the most honest drawing. I never think "how" is the thing going to be made, the how is the entire process.

How do you see your work growing in the future?

I would love my work to exist not only physically but digitally somehow. Image overlays, Augmented Reality, Code, Video. We live between both spaces in 2020. Traditionally, our narratives where only supplemented by technology. But, I believe we have officially slipped into the space of selective-augmentation of the world around us. If we so please. A one sided narrative is only 1/3rd of a whole story; opposition and truth are also always at play.

If you had to give advice to your younger self, what would it be?

A practice without empathy, is un-requited labor. Just as" "Faith without works, is dead". I don't say that to be overtly referential to a belief system. Nonetheless, the act of making Art is an amazing endeavor, and is essential to the betterment of the world around us. Never let anyone tell you differently. In times of need and crisis, we turn to Art in all it's forms. If you believe that is your calling or "path" take it up wholeheartedly to the best of YOUR ability. You will see opportunity in surprising circumstances. Full-time energy on a part time pursuit will only leave you feeling burnt out. You'll have good and bad days, weeks, etc. However, if you let the passion of making fill you, it will sustain you during hard times. If you're a maker- MAKE. You'll go places you never thought you would. Finally, just be kind to yourself. Plateau's come to challenge us occasionally, a sticking-point is just a sign you have beat this level of "The Game". Double-down and enjoy the grind. One day you will look back an surprise yourself where you came from.

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