“Everything was art,” says Angela Davis Johnson as she looks back on her childhood. A child from “a lot of spaces,” Johnson moved often when she was young, as her father served in the military. Nevertheless, she considers a small, Eastern Arkansan town called Lambrook her home.
“My mother is an artist and so growing up she made art a focus in my life … from cooking to entertainment to spiritual healing, life was explored through a creative lens,” she says.
In her early years, Johnson’s mother went back to school for design. “She taught me and my siblings art from her coursework,” she says.
Even so, Johnson admits to first falling in love with dance. “I wanted to be a dancer,” she says, “then I started painting and I was hooked.”
After that, she never looked back. She remembers her first solo gallery show, which took place at Gallery 360 in Little Rock. Owner Jay King let her run with her ideas, a defining moment for her.
“He let me turn his gallery into an apothecary and it was so amazing to create on that level,” she remembers.
Johnson has many inspirations including the work and processes of Carrie Mae Weems, Lorna Simpson, and Delita Martin. She continues, “I am always impressed and blown away by V.L. Cox’s work.”
For Johnson, her medium of choice is ever-changing, although she is a fan of painting with acrylics. She’s also been known to create texture in her work with oil paint, scrap paper and fabric. Throughout her work, Johnson never gave up her love of dance, as she admits, “I am fascinated with body movement in performance art, as well.”
Best known for her vibrant narrative paintings, Johnson often explores universal connections, identity and history through personal symbols.
She says, “All my work is based on amplifying stories that may be overlooked … [ultimately] speaking to that amplification and making societal changes through my work.”
A member of the Arkansas League of Artists, Johnson divides her time between Little Rock and Atlanta. Soon she will start a residency at the Mississippi Museum of Art in Jackson, Miss., where she will collaborate with Philadelphia-based artist, Muthi Reed.
She’s excited for this next step, as she says, “We are creating art and conversations with the community that will culminate into an installation in the museum garden. This year I hope to create more work like this.”
If you haven’t ever seen any of Johnson’s work, you can catch her next at the Thea Foundation. The show – The Wondrous Possibilities of Falling and Flying – will open Feb. 5 with music by the Funkanites, a raffle of an original work of art, heavy hors d’oeuvres, beer and wine.