Al Johnson is the consummate artist. His work ranges from the figurative to the expressionistic to the abstract and more. He is a fine artist, a commercial artist, a draftsman, a portraitist. He is beyond category.
His work is exhibited throughout the world, including Tokyo, China, London and Japan. And his work is here.
The Queens native is known for the commissioned 7-ft portrait of Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm permanently installed at Brooklyn Borough Hall. He also presented at the groundbreaking group exhibition of murals and large artworks featured in the Artcurian’s “Artists Speaking for the Spirit” Group Exhibition in Brooklyn, 2010.
Mr. Johnson has developed storyboards for the Academy Award Winning Film “The Hours”, the feature film “The Fountain”, and HBO’s Soprano’s, Six Feet Under and many others.
His art can be seen in the newly-published Reach + Become: The Story of Two Souls” accompanying the writings of creative entrepreneur Barbara. The book models the healing journeys and convergent paths of Ms. Bullard and Mr. Johnson which led to re-energized lives of purpose through the process of letting go (releasing) and receiving.
Their book’s messages fit with Our Time Press recurring themes centering on leaders/leadership; and coping during these pandemic times, among several. We asked Mr. Johnson to supply some thoughts on the latter, coming from the point of view of an artist; the revelations in the new book; and his position as a leader in the art world. That statement is below. To accompany the statement, we needed his image. And we were in a hurry to make our deadline.
Within a short time, Mr. Johnson sent the image, a selfie. But it was more than that. We immediately recognized it as a gift extended from his soul. This self-photo is reflective of the mood of the country over the past year in this era of sustained uncertainty. Mr. Johnson painted his “Moondance” during the past year. With Mr. Johnson’s positioning of himself in front of it, we can’t help but shift between his eye and the closed eye of the “moondancer.”
We learned that Mr. Johnson’s eye for a story was trained at an early age through the influences of his mother, and the mentoring of Daily News reporter Jimmy Breslin. At age 14, he met Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, through Breslin, at Borough Hall. She was impressed with him, then. Years later, as previously mentioned, Mr. Johnson would paint one of the most famous portraits ever painted of her.
But two years earlier, at age 12, it was a teacher at Al’s middle school who first noticed her charge was gifted with a keen eye for drawing realistic portraits of people. She asked Jimmy Breslin to take her student with him on a story. The story turned out to be the trial of Rubin Hurricane Carter, the boxer wrongly accused and convicted of murder, and John Artis. Young Johnson became a courtroom artist.
It would make an impression on Johnson for the rest of his life. Johnson says he witnessed first-hand “the systematic injustice leveled against the wrongly accused”. It influenced his work, helping him to “tap into generational trauma.”
Mr. Johnson offers a coping message below to our readers that speaks
to “exploring more inward” to find release and relief.
(Bernice Elizabeth Green)
My mother used to remind me that when I was a very little boy, I was drawing before I learned to write. This is something that has guided me throughout my life. And through my defining and redefining of who I am as an artist and still learning how I communicate naturally.
Discovering the inner resolved of my understanding of how my art plays a role in connecting to the soul. Therefore, as this being my direction in life, I accepted that responsibility to constantly rely on my instincts to reach out to others who felt and shared the energy.
The energy that takes me into the portal of my mind is confirmed by what is felt in the heart. It’s hard to do this when you’re used to having someone there to receive your message or reflection…and now the only way is through this digital world. Being in isolation required a lot of digging inside my inner.
So, I surrendered to my faith system that reminds and allows me to be removed to the stillness. My commitment to my reliance on the inner God inside of me reveals the purity of my lifelong quest to pursue this. The elements used in creating my visual means that what I want the art to do is to take the mind to imaginary places, to cause a pause to the common things as we know them.
With the pandemic happening, I felt the need to respond to my humanity and explore more inward and yes now outwards to those who are receptive to the colors and to those who follow the light. The light of spiritual energies. The energy of the rediscovered …