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Artist of the Week: Dane Johnson

August 7, 2011

Textbooks on art and visual culture repeatedly point out that the people of our current times are daily inundated with visual imagery and saturated with information.  Dane Johnson has found a way to embrace these elements of our culture and find meaning through art. 

STRAIGHT 8’S by Dane Johnson, Acrylic on canvas, 2010, 48” x 24” [121.9 x 61 cm]

Dane Johnson creates paintings that direct attention to and elevate the status of found objects and things derived from mass media sources.  His current series using discarded lottery tickets is really interesting.  He has a really great Artist Statement that describes his intentions:

“My art engages images that are destined to be forgotten, the ephemera of our visual world. Mass media, advertisements, newspapers, lottery tickets are ubiquitous throughout all communities.  They are in general received with an immediate practicality, followed by a discarding, physically and mentally, of the remnants. The waste created from used up images has engendered a cynicism in response to our visual culture as a whole. 

One can think of this visual culture as trash, relegating these images and objects as litter in the streets, and finally desensitizing oneself to them.  Or one can shift their mindset in order to see past the initial function, deeper into these bits of ephemera.  Newspaper clippings, smaller ad campaigns, things people don’t pay attention to because they are ever present, but don’t make a lasting impact, can ultimately have an abundance of meaning. 

As I spend time with these images, recreating them, I give them a second life and thus add to the visual culture these images exist in.  I aim to provide a counterpoint to the negative associations with mass media, by elevating it to a higher status in my art.

Our visual culture exponentially grows, and is continuous.  It is entwined in how we associate with our world, via technology, advertising, needs, markets.  Through my art, I promote an informed viewership, cultivating a respect for such ephemera by taking time to read these images. In a discarded lottery ticket, one can find a moment of hope. In a juxtaposed newspaper clipping, what once was overlooked, has potential to be seen for its beauty.  One can be surprised by the outcome of this approach.

The newly contextualized visual culture can breed discoveries, new art forms, new technology, music, a visual diaspora.  With only a cynical outlook on this aspect of our society, you are left with a judgment that stops progress; but when one embraces it, you can activate the images to create new forms, and tailor them to what you want to see.”

See more art by Dane Johnson at his portfolio site here.

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