Emerging Artists in the Spotlight – Glyneisha Johnson: Collage as Metaphor

The Emerging Kansas City Artist Looks to the Past to Portray the Present

Artist Glyneisha Johnson, a May 2017 graduate of the Kansas City Art Institute, has received several honors in very short order. In September 2017 she landed a studio residency from the Charlotte Street Foundation, and in January 2018 she had a solo exhibition at The Writers Place, where seven poets created works in response to her collages. Bruce Hartman, executive director of the Nerman Museum at Johnson County Community College, purchased “The Help,” one of the collages from the show, for the museum collection.

Johnson’s brightly hued images echo her experience of being raised in the South. They depict places important to African American families, such as front porches, kitchens and dens.

“Upon entering The Writers Place, I was immediately captivated by the poignant nature of Glyneisha’s work,” Hartman said in a recent email. “Her interior depictions are suffused with a sense of mystery and appear deeply personal, as if a remembrance. The vibrant colors of “The Help,” along with its enigmatic figure, made it especially compelling.”

Johnson’s work seems rooted strongly in traditions such as quiltmaking and the collages of Romare Bearden, yet updated to reflect 21st-century concerns.

“I explore the notion of collage as a metaphor to describe the dislocated, collaged nature of Black history due to colonialism,” Johnson explained in a written statement. “In the same way that Black history and its culture is dislocated, found, and pieced back together with new elements from new generations, the collages take on the same motion with the use of colorful marked papers.”

Johnson’s working methods add rewarding layers of sophistication. According to the artist, her use of a broom and her own hair to make patterns in the collages pays homage to the long centuries of domestic work undertaken by many African American women.

Johnson worked with Anne Gatschet, president of The Writers Place, to select the works for her recent exhibit there. Poets Jessica Ayala, Jose Faus, Sheri Purpose Hall, Chell Navarro, Glenn North, Jermaine Thompson and Gatschet then responded to Johnson’s work.

The resulting poems hung nearby, and on the evening of January 6 The Writers Place hosted a “Dialogue in Color,” in which the poets read their works aloud.

Above: The Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art recently acquired “The Help” (2018), a mixed-media collage piece by Glyneisha Johnson, from the artist’s recent exhibit at The Writers Place.

James Martin

James Martin is Public Art Administrator for the City of Kansas City, Missouri. Prior to working for KCMO, he wrote freelance for “KC Studio” and served as public art consultant for the cities of Gladstone, Missouri; Leawood, Merriam, and Olathe, Kansas, and for Overland Park Regional Medical Center. He has held curatorial positions with Truman Medical Centers, Sprint and The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, and taught art history at UMKC, JCCC, Park University and Baldwin-Wallace College in Ohio. He holds a B.A. in art history from the University of Kansas and an M.A in art history from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio.

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