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Q&A with artist Jamile B. Johnson

Title: Q&A with Artist Jamile B. Johnson. Image: Jamile B Johnson hanging his artwork at Orlando Public Library

Visual artist Jamile B. Johnson’s Tanager is the newest art installation at Orlando Public Library. On Thursday, April 18, from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Johnson will host a meet the artist event in Orlando Public Library’s Albertson Room. His original pieces and prints will be available for sale.

Why did you begin to create art? 

When I was about six years old, I had trouble paying attention in class, so my imagination led me to start drawing when I got distracted. I noticed that those drawings grabbed other people’s attention. So, I kept on drawing because I loved the reaction people had and I just loved doing it. My art is something I can put onto a page that is full of everything I love and am passionate about.

Photo of the Tanager art exhibit by Jamile B. Johnson at Orlando Public Library

What are your favorite mediums? 

I would have to say my favorite medium right now is acrylic. It’s a very accessible medium; I can buy acrylic at any art store or home improvement store, and they dry quickly. So, if I make a mistake, I can easily paint over it in the moment. 

Why did you create this collection with different textures in mind? 

I decided to experiment with other mediums because there were certain textures I couldn’t replicate with paint. And there are certain meanings I couldn’t express with paint and a canvas. For my denim jacket piece, I feel there’s a special relationship art has with fashion, especially when it comes to graphics and graphic tees. I really, really like the painting I did on the denim because it’s something you could wear. It’s something tangible that someone could walk around with and almost embody the artwork itself. For the piece with the glass as the galaxy, I wanted to find a way to embody different textures and lights, in a way that stars do but I didn’t want to paint it. I could have used glitter or something else, but I just felt like that reminded me too much of childhood. So, I decided on glass because of the way it reflects light. 

Why is the denim jacket called ADHD? 

I’ve always been fascinated with idea of demons and invisible things that prevent us from doing things or torment us over time. So that one’s called ADHD because I feel like I’ve always suffered from the symptoms of ADHD. It’s been one of the core issues I’ve had with my relationships regarding my memory and being able to focus and give attention to things that are important to me. ADHD has always followed me, so I wanted to express that through my art. I couldn’t figure out a good way to do that on a canvas, so I figured clothing would be perfect for that. 

Photo of the Tanager art exhibit by Jamile B. Johnson at Orlando Public Library

What does this collection’s color pallet mean to you? 

Tanager was inspired by the bird; it’s a really colorful bird from South America. Something that is helpful for people who struggle with their emotions or depression is to reconnect with nature. So, I wanted the theme of the show to be symbolic and embody nature. I feel as a society we all fall into our own heads and end up staying inside and being on our phones or computers. So, I wanted to do something that took me away from that world. This bird inspired the color pallet, and the pallet makes me feel something. There are six to ten colors that I use, and I don’t waver from them. It’s the same colors on all the paintings – I felt using the same colors would allow the narrative to continue throughout all the pieces.

What is your favorite piece? 

My favorite piece would have to be Shared Reality. It’s the piece that is the hardest for me to look at because it is so personal. The house in the background is my father’s, and the window farthest to the right is the room he passed away in. That moment is one that I try not to think about and go out of my way to distract myself from by overworking myself. It’s called Shared Reality because of the dogs on the driveway. As a child, I remember continuously asking my father for a dog after I saw the movie 101 Dalmatians.  There are eight dogs because there are eight people in my family — including myself — and the dog that’s looking directly at the viewer is me. And the Dalmatians in front of the house are guarding or distracting you from the sadness the households. 

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Memorial Day Closing

Orange County Library System will be closed Sunday, May 26 and Monday, May 27, in observance of Memorial Day. The library system will resume normal business hours on Tuesday, May 28. View a complete list of holiday closures >