Tye Johnson Artist Statements
Paper Dolls and Action Figures:
Geisha Girl, Brownie Sweet, Holy Momma (2014)
When I was a little girl, I loved playing with paper dolls. I liked that I could change their clothes and accessories almost instantaneously. They were easy to collect and if one tore, I could simply just tape it together or toss it and get another one. I told them what emotions they had at any given moment and they stood exactly where I wanted them to and did exactly what I wanted them to, adapting to any situation. Their facial expressions were usually emotionless and sometimes they didn’t have a face at all.
They didn’t break… they didn’t cry… they didn’t laugh… they didn’t care… they didn’t think… they didn’t feel.
After going through my share of heartaches and pains- from failed relationships to deferred dreams and everything else in between, I‘m finally realizing that it is okay for me to cry, to laugh, to care, to think, and to feel.
I’m finally realizing that I am not a paper doll.
This series seeks to illustrate the fragility of our humanity and how easily impacted we are by the world around us. Naturally, we are shaped by societal blinders and boundaries causing us to act as desensitized paper dolls and action figures that are conditioned to ignore our basic needs, desires, sensitivities, and vulnerabilities.
From Geisha Girl to Brownie Sweet to Holy Momma… We share in their struggles inasmuch as we embrace or ignore our own. Only when we begin to realize that every person has a story deep inside of them which fosters their capacity to live, breathe, and love, will we begin to see humanity grow and ignite the power to change the world.
All matter contains energy and energy makes its presence felt through matter. One of the most amazing things I’ve learned is that a single tree has enough energy in it to power the earth with electricity 8 times around. This fact astonished me and sparked the question: If one tree has that much power, how much more power does one person have?
Throughout my life, I have struggled at various times with not feeling like I’m enough… not pretty enough… not holy enough… not smart enough… not rich enough… not talented enough… not lovable enough. And I’ve attempted to compensate for ‘my lack’ by trying to substitute superficial things into my being in order to fill my cup. It stemmed from something in my childhood where someone may have said or done something that changed the trajectory of the light I was naturally born to embrace.
The good news is that it’s never too late to change the trajectory again. It’s never too late to understand that at your core: You are worthy. You are valuable. You are powerful. You are ENOUGH!
These paintings were created nostalgically, reminiscing childhood drawings where life, for most of us, was more simple and innocent. They seek to speak explicitly about a person’s power, worthiness, and value, and to illustrate the energy found in our words and in the natural forms of life that surround us.
Love is Messy... Let Go... (2014)
Two people from different worlds, on different paths, with different journeys, coming together to make life work in order to grow… I haven’t mastered it… As a matter of fact, I’ve made many messes in the process- messes with my own heart and with others… but I’m learning…
Learning that it’s okay to be vulnerable and to allow someone else to be your strength at times…
Learning that love is all about balance and that it works best when both people are emotionally available and into each other…
Learning that I can’t force or convince anyone to be ready for me and that people (like plants) need space to grow…
Learning that we’re all still learning and being okay with that…
While thumbing through a photography book on the Civil Rights movement, I came across an image of a man protesting with a sign that read 'Now'. I was immediately drawn to it and knew that I needed to paint a series that expressed the urgency of this sentiment. At the time, I was thinking that the paintings would speak more globally about standing up for the rights of others and the necessity of doing so at the present moment. As I began to paint, I realized that the message being rendered was much more personal.
The paintings began to speak to me about being fully present wherever I am. They began to speak about living fully and not being afraid to express that fullness no matter the situation. They became the first step on my journey of learning to sit in my emotions, to allow myself to really feel, and to give myself permission to just 'be'. As a result, I can now serve others from a more real and authentic place.
It's a simple word... holding much power... plaguing all it encounters... calling to action everyone in its embrace... it whispers, "do it hungry... do it scared... do it hurt... do it broken... do it single... do it married... do it alone... do it poor... do it rich... do it insecure... do it with heartache..... dance... live... act... love... cry... shout... sing... fly... give... scream... dream... breathe... just breathe... whatever it is you are called to do at any given moment... do it NOW!
Bound Beauty: Beauty Bound (2012)
I began this series thinking I was speaking for the masses about our individual identities being a societal construct, about ‘dressing up’ to be cookie-cutter images of who we are told to be, and about our beauty being bound underneath our pretenses.
Later, I realized, (as life took me through a whirlwind of learning experiences via break-ups, hook-ups, stake-outs), that my art was actually speaking directly to me. We dress up, put on makeup, and show the beauty of our curves, all the while masking and binding the pain that lies beneath the surface. Sometimes, life interrupts our regularly scheduled program and we wish we had been dealt a different hand. However, it is during those times that we are given the opportunity to surrender what we think we know and give our broken hearts to something real.
During one of those seasons in my life, I finally realized how bound I truly am and how I’ve been letting society, family, men, sex, religion, work, and everything else in between, determine my identity. My lack of creating appropriate boundaries has caused me a lot of frustration and has kept me from fully living. My lack of not knowing who I am has caused me to choose lovers who, equally, don’t have a clue about the treasures that lie within me. My lack of seeking my Creator and understanding His boundless love has left me thirsty as my cup runs empty over and over again.
I want to set aside the distractions that seek to disable and warp my reality… I want to stop playing the victim and assuming its role because, the truth is, I hurt people too… I want to live and love, completely and abundantly, the way Nature intended… Imagine that… I want my beauty uncovered, unmasked, and unbound… I want to be free…
If we ever plan to meet our authentic selves- who we were designed to be, we will need to wake up, smell our beauty… and live… at once.
without a vision... (2011)
My passion lies in utilizing bold and majestic colors and creating different textures with paper, text, or anything I can find... It is my belief that even in the most dismal of situations, whether we realize it or not, color shapes our world and enhances our sense of being. Subsequently, the beauty of being human and fashioned after a loving God, allows us the ability to be 'creators,' entitling us to design and produce 'somethings' from nothing.
"without a vision..." speaks to the hearts of those who fail to see the importance of self and their contribution to the whole. When painting figures, I usually mask the eyes and sculpt beautiful, full lips because our visions are born when we speak them to existence. Scripture says that 'without a vision, the people perish.' Through these paintings, I hope to awaken a sense of hope in the lives of those who are afraid to dream or who have buried the visions that the Creator has carefully and tenderly placed inside of each and every one of us.