We had the good fortune of connecting with Benjamin M Johnson and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Benjamin, what role has risk played in your life or career?
I see risk taking as an essential part of life. I’m a painter, and my studio practice has taught me that risk is an important part of growth. In order to avoid making the same painting again and again, I must explore new ideas creatively, I have to consciously try new techniques and approaches, not knowing whether they will work, or whether anyone will enjoy the resulting paintings enough to want to look at them or perhaps purchase one. I often compare being a professional artist with being a professional gambler. I will spend months in the studio on a set of new paintings that may be successful or may fall short of my expectations, but I have learned that all of my significant development as a painter came from the times that I stretched myself and took some risks. I have seen that parallel in my personal life as well. We only learn and grow when we allow ourselves to step out of our comfort zone, even if just a little at a time.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
My work as an artist over the past twenty years has taken a winding path through varying subject matter and types of artwork, but ultimately, my aim for all of it has been to reflect my sheer appreciation of the simple fact of being alive, and to inspire the same feeling in others. I studied painting at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, so I come from a traditional artistic background, but I also love contemporary and conceptual art. I try to bridge those worlds in my work. Paintings are interesting things in an increasingly speedy, digital world. They’re hardmade, and quiet, patiently crafted things. When they’re successful, they can magically help us see the world in a new, fresh way, and I love that. My recent, highly detailed paintings of simple subjects feel continuous with my artistic journey and also act as calm touchstones for me in these challenging times. Each painting is an invitation to see the world in a small stone, or a feather. I think of them as minimalist, visual poems. They are reminders to pause, take a breath, and appreciate this moment, just as it is.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Many things are restricted during these covid times, but looking ahead to post-pandemic days, I would be sure to take friends to visit my favorite arts institutions here in Tucson, like the Tucson Museum of Art, MOCA, The University of Arizona Museum of Art, and Etherton Gallery. A lunch at Tumerico would be a must. Next up, A hike in the Tucson Mountains, with a stop at Mission Garden, a special spot that highlights the long history of Sonoran Desert agriculture right in the heart of town. A sunset walk up the historically significant and beautiful Tumamoc Hill would be a great way to kick off an evening spent in downtown Tucson, getting dinner at Penca or Boca Tacos, followed by music at 191 Toole or Club Congress. A mezcal tasting at EXO/el Crisol is a must. A bike tour of Tucson murals would pair well with some lunch and a coffee at the Mercado, with a sunset picnic out in Saguaro National Park West to top it all off.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I consider every day that I am in the studio a success, and my family and friends have been amazingly supportive of my creative life over the years in so many different ways. I’m so grateful for their profound love and support.