Jesse Johnson – Artist Statement
In my work as a visual poet, I seek to call into question the traditional distinctions between written text and visual representation. Am I producing pieces of writing or works of visual art?
Each of these images is composed of original text—text that has been written specifically for the image in question. Each piece, then, presents a highly personal and idiosyncratic engagement with its own subject matter.
My work to date has been divided among three ongoing series. In WRITERS, a series of portraits of the writers I admire most, I seek to generate a dialogue between the subjects and myself. In AIR & WATER, I explore the natural and architectural landscapes of the Pacific Northwest. And in A DOZEN ROSES, I examine the literary history of an iconic flower. In each series, I strive to create images that engage the viewer/reader on multiple levels simultaneously.
To create these pieces, I use Adobe Illustrator. Because this software is so vital to my process, I like to think of the computer as a kind of digital collaborator. This speaks, I think, to the state of the arts and the role of the artist in the 21st century. It isn’t until the works are printed—in limited edition runs (of various sizes) on archival bamboo paper—that they become part of the human physical landscape.
Artists often say that their work offers the best statement on itself. In my case, this is true in a particularly literal way. In the writing that forms these images, I am constantly thinking out loud about the stakes of my ongoing textual engagement with the world.