I Was Gone For A Minute...

Hello all! So many things going on and I haven’t updated anything on here in four years. I swore I would keep this up to date.

So much for that.

I have since graduated, moved back to Chicago, had a few residences and exhibitions and now I found myself back in Atlanta, carving out the life I now see for myself. I’m going to try to keep this as a space to work out ideas in real time. More specifically my thoughts on my work, maybe sometimes just my thoughts.

Stay tuned.




A few quick things. 

My thesis show now has a venue and will take place on Feb. 20th. More details on that as the date approaches. I expect everyone I know and love to be there to celebrate the completion of this body of work. When the times come please join me. It will be a night to remember. 

I have two classes and one quarter left until I obtain my MFA and move on to another phase of my life! How exciting right?! I'm scared AND excited! 

That's all for now! Be back soon with more info.

-Ervin A. Johnson


I passed!

Just a brief update! I passed my review! It was a nerve wrecking process but it was most certainly worth it. I have never been more connected to a body of work; I fully understand it now. I don't have much time left here at SCAD and so I plan on making the best of what little time I do have left. There is no time to let up on the gas. I going balls to the wall until I graduate. People will know my name! 

-Ervin A. Johnson

It's Been Far Too Long...

Hello fellow lovers of art. I've neglected this section of my website for far too long. I'm not too sure though, that anyone actually looks at anything other than the photos themselves anyway. But, on the off chance that someone cares about the behind the scenes, I'll do my best to keep this updated. I'm in my second year of the MFA program at SCAD and simply put, my growth has been amazing. I finally settled in on my thesis work Project Genesis, an original mythology that renegotiates that past of the Black man. It excites me so much so that I've been painting every other day in pursuit of bringing the work to it's fullest potential. My 45 review is this Friday. I'll be presenting the work formally to a board of my professors in hopes that they will give the ok to proceed with the work. Wish me luck and keep me in your prayers. That's all for now, stay tuned. I look forward to growing together. 


-Ervin A. Johnson


So the end of my first semester of graduate school is here. In the past week I have spent well over 50+ hours in the grad lab and at home painting over photographs. As you all can imagine, I'm tired. But I must say, I've never been more proud of anything I've done than the work I've done here at SCAD. I've never had friends who pushed my work the way my peers do. When I left Columbia I was worried I'd never encounter the caliber of professors and students. Fast forward to now and I met a prof who actually worked with my advisor/prof from Columbia, Myra Greene.

I remember getting the rejection letters from Columbia and Parsons and being completely and utterly crushed. Meanwhile SCAD kept sending friendly reminders for me to finish my application. I was of course apprehensive because a professor at Columbia had discouraged me from applying to SCAD. She said, "I don't think it's the place for you. The art scenes are here in Chicago and in New York. The further away you are from these places the harder it will be for you realize your dreams." That scared me to my core. I spent four years at UIUC obtaining a degree in Creative Writing and another three semesters at Columbia finally pursuing what I love. I couldn't imagine having come that far too only fade into the background of the fine art world. None of that matters to me now. I'm completely and utterly happy here in Atlanta. It's the perfect place to produce my work and the atmosphere of SCAD is amazing. Everyone helps in every way that they can. It's a beautiful thing to be apart of, and I've only just begun. Here's to five more semesters!!! 

Arabian Mountain and other stuff.

Just came from my first ever hiking trip to the Arabian Mountain trails. Took a lot of good photos I plan to use for my final project involving compositing images for Suellen's DIgital Craft class. In other news, I had a major breakthrough this week regarding my work. I switched back to Luster paper, which allows me to interact with the actual photograph instead of just painting over it. I'm happier with the overall results of the images and the direction the work has begun to take. I had a conversation with Dawoud Bey on Facebook about the process of letting the work take it's own direction. He said that I should begin with an idea but that my idea shouldn't be so rigid that I don't allow the work to become something else on it's own. It was so weird when it happened. Something just clicked. I merged everything that had been successful over the past 8 weeks into one photograph and I was immediately happy. Steph came over and we discussed the frustrations of the artistic process. We agreed that those frustrating days and many failed prints were necessary to get to the end. It's hard to admit that because I don't necessarily enjoy that journey and would much rather begin knowing exactly what I want and how to produce. I'm sure everyone would prefer to work in that manner. I don't think the end result would be so fulfilling though.

The project topic has also changed. It is now about the objectification of the black male body throughout history and the weathering effect I believe it has begun to take. I have thrown around a few titles but I'm pretty much set on "Treasured" given the color palette I  have chosen for the work. Evan asked me if this work was apart of the "(Re)Negotiated Spaces" series and he was right to think so. The work still aims to renegotiate the space, but to talk about something specific this time instead of my broad chaotic experiences as a gay black man.  

That's all I can think of right now. I'll write more when I know more. 

Hank, Paint, and all that's in between

To start my weekend I attended the Hank WIllis Thomas lecture at SCAD. When Steph and Ock invited I wasn't exactly sure who he was but after a quick Google search I decided it would be interesting and worth my time to hear him speak. After my arrival and in the midst of him speaking though I realized many of my Columbia professors had recommended I look at his work. The beginning of the lecture was interesting and unusual. He began in a sort of messy manner shuffling through his powerpoint, asking the audience where we would like him to begin. Overall though I enjoyed the lecture. He brought up a lot of valid points about both his approach to his photography and to his understanding how photography functions as art. I must say though that his "valid points" bore a strong resemblance to Szarkowski's "The Photographer's Eye" and the five characteristics Szarkowski cites as the makeup of a strong photograph. But I guess imitation is the strongest form of flattery. 

In other news I finally got brave enough to paint; too bad it didn't end well. I find myself very happy with the spray paint layer. I like the addition and the hard edges the geometric shapes bring. I also like breaking those hard lines up by removing them with rubbing alcohol. I attempted to distort the main figure of the photos by adding a wash layer in which i lay paint down and then wipe it away. Paying more attention to the highlights an shadows. But it ends up looking more like an accident than something done with purpose. I think what I'll try next is to do the wash layer first. Then add the spray paint and remove as I see fit. I also feel the need to go back to the luster paper. I can't take away from anything that isn't acrylic on the fiber based paper and that bothers me. I want to be able to take away from the figure as well, and I like how the rubbing alcohol interacts with the luster paper. So this week that's where I'll be heading. 

"That's called gas..."

Finally figured out how to approach the work. The spray paint is now my base coat. I'll then go back in and paint over the work I've done. I think I may be able to finish about 5-10 for my final critique. Working with two mediums has really made me miss straight photography and so I look forward to working on a few projects when I get home. I've had so many ideas this semester and I'm really excited to pursuit them all at some point.

The most recent came when I was having a conversation with Steph about a project I've been wanting to produce for a while. Back in Chicago I encountered an alarming number of young black men who had recently become infected with HIV. Since then I've wanted to document that culture but haven't really been sure about how to do so. I think my facination with gay black culture stems from my lack of exposure to it when I first came out. My parents are middle class African-Americans who choose to send me to private school from K-12, which meant other than my family, I was not exposed to many other people I could identify with racially or culturally. When I came out to my white best friend who was also gay there was no one to guide us in the way of "gay". And unfortunately there exists a divide, at least in Chicago, between gay white men and gay black men. All of these feelings about racism, self-hate, blackness, social and gender stereotypes are why I produce the work I do. I began wanting to learn more about who I was and what it means to accept that and exist among everyone else. 

I wonder though, what will happen a few years down the line? What kind of work will I be making and what will it be about?

A little stuck

Critique went as expected. And even though I was barely alive for most of the time, it seemed like it was very productive for all of my peers, myself included. I have all these ideas for how to produce the work and all these sources of inspirations, but I think I've scared myself from actually making the work. So today I'm dedicating myself to this process and everyday for the rest of this week. I will paint a portion of one photograph no matter how big or small. At least this way I'll be forced to think about how to move forward.

In other news as the semester passes by, very quickly I might add, I'm becoming more and more adjusted to my surroundings. It's interesting to see how the photo grads interact with each other and how different all of our work is. I'm inspired by quite a few, especially for their drive and passion when explaining their work. I feel at home here at SCAD when for a long time I questioned coming here. Back at Columbia, right before graduation a top prof was excited for me to hear back from Parsons. She said I belonged in New York and that she knew great things would happen for me there. Parsons ended up wait listing me and then finally declining my application to study there. When I mentioned SCAD to her she quickly frowned and told me I shouldn't have even applied because it wouldn't be a good fit for me. To make a long story short I'm glad I followed my own path. I'm happy where I am and I can't wait to see what's in store here for me. 

Spray paint and stuff.

In just under a week the amazing couple has done it again.  Ock introduced me to a shit ton of painters, various methods of painting, and general theories of composition. Steph's comment last week about how to approach the work was something that I needed to hear and has worked very well in the new work.   Immediately afterwards I produced an image that I think began to speak to my original concept that I introduced at the beginning of the semester. Perhaps I was a little overzealous though because I added too much and the image became less exciting. In my usual manner I became extremely frustrated and abandoned the work for a couple of days so that I could return to it with a fresh start. I think my major problem is that I expect to make great work all the time and for it to happen quickly. Obviously this isn't realistic. So I shall go forth, slowly, and make intelligent and informed decisions with my painting. I'm exited for critique this week. I can't wait to see where everyone is with their work and for feedback on my stuff. Yaaaah for critique week! 

Anyone know how to get spray paint off of a concrete floor?! :)


It's interesting what happens just being around new people. I've learned so much from Stephanie and Oktawian in such a short amount of time. They work differently than I do and are so willing to share anything they think will enhance my work with me. I've encountered a lot of people who weren't willing to do that, and so at first I was blown away by their offer to help and teach. They taught me different effects for layering as well as how to make a wheat paste to adhere different things to the surface of the paper. I left the session with many different ways of working than I ever thought of. Now I guess the problem is deciding how I want to work and which methods will help me achieve the look I'm going for. 

Last class Forest asked to me consider why I was using the mediums I was and what the process means in context of the photographs. I'm still not sure why. I know that I am and have always been interested in science, especially things dealing with outer space and the universe and it's origins. The photographs are important because they describe humanity and creation. The addition of the paint over the photograph is meant to convey how despite the disagreement over the origins of life there is a sort of symbiotic relationship that exists between the two. It is my goal to make my photos function in the same way. The paint must become as necessary as the ink on the paper. 

New work. New frustrations.

So, I've begun work on my newest project and I've already hit some sort of creative road block. I feel limited, as I always have, by my skills as a painter. I always happen upon something I like instead of starting off knowing exactly what I'm trying to achieve and that makes me uncomfortable. I like to be in control of every aspect of my work and this uncertainty is unacceptable. I think what's slowing me down is that I don't see the end result in my head. Usually I can imagine what I want the finished works to be like. Now for some reason, I can't. This week has been very emotional for me. When I first moved here I was beyond excited about a new beginning and the chance to create in a new atmosphere. Now, I'm becoming homesick and that may also be effecting my work. 

I've been trying to infuse my interests in the imaginary into my work for some time now with no luck. I've recreated well known fairy tales including Snow White, and had to ultimately end up abandoning the project because my visions weren't being translated well enough. Specifically for my reinterpretations of fairy tales I was interested in the naivety of the early Disney princesses. I saw a parallel in this and in my introduction into the gay world after coming out. There was no manual on how to be gay but there were certainly expectations from my peers on how to behave and act. I want to pick this project up one day, I'm just not sure when. Perhaps during my time here at SCAD. 

I'm not sure what's going on with me at all right now and hopefully I'll be able to figure it out soon. There's much work to be done, and not a lot of time to do it. 

The Evil Queen 

Random Thoughts

Since graduating from Columbia I thought it best to take a creative break from producing work. In my last semester I had a full course load of eighteen credit hours and five of the six classes required shooting and printing in some capacity. Each class required a different approach to the main idea that is my work; which is and has been centered around my sexuality. My work is mostly about how I deal with the “issues” being gay brings up, but it’s also about how others around me deal with them as well. Pour into that ideas of blackness, male identity, and religion and you get the general gist  of what my work has been about. Producing five projects on the subject was taxing to say the least. So up until now I hadn’t really given much thought to where I wanted my work to go next. 

Fast forward to today and I’m bursting with ideas. There are so many avenues I haven’t explored and so many things I want to try. Two projects stuck with me; Daddy and (Re)Negotiated Spaces. The latter for me is very frustrating because I lack the technical skills as a painter to communicate what it is I’m trying to say. With that project in particular I was trying to speak about spaces we find familiar and how the chaos of life can change how we view that space. In some of the more successful pieces from that series you can see that idea starting to come through. 

What is even more interesting though, are the realizations that I came to while discussing my work in class. First, most of my work, in some way, is about space and how I exist in it with others. Second is that my final project at Columbia wasn’t really a completed body of work. I see it now as a roadmap; each piece being a starting point for a different project. I’m always concerned about running on empty from a creative stand point. So to have created a starting point this time is interesting. My last professor, Myra Greene, pushed my class to challenge ourselves creatively and more importantly taught us how to work past the frustrations that come along with being an artist. I’m not so scared anymore of coming up with an idea. I am however very excited to learn more about my craft at SCAD and to be around like minded highly motivated individuals producing work very different from my own.



I've decided to redesign my website as I enter into a new phase of life. Check it out and let me know what you guys think.

-Ervin A. Johnson