MEET THE ARTIST: Harris Johnson

Meet How to Remain Human artist Harris Johnson. Throughout this week the Remain Human blog will continue to focus on this artist:

Born: 1986

Lives and works: Just relocated from Richmond, VA and to Brooklyn, NY

Regional connections:

Grew up in Columbus, attended the Cleveland Institute of Art (BFA, 2009)


What is your favorite material to work with?

Enamels and oil paint, in general. Viscous, moves fast when applied and retains a heavy material presence, tactile and buttery, sometimes nasty and sometimes sensuous.


What is your favorite tool in the studio?

I love most of my tools and materials, but my drill is the best thing I have ever owned. Diagonal cut house painter brushes are pretty amazing too.


Favorite place in the region?

I think there’s a lot of amazing spots in Cleve, but I really love the East Side in general. Coventry was pretty influential—my house was right next to Harvey Pekar’s old place.


Talk briefly about a risk you took to become the artist you are today.

I had a choice between a “commercial” artistic career and being interested in painting at a younger age. Honestly, I chose painting because I liked how oil paint smelled. That seems dumb, but it started with a choice — reacting from a place of “not knowing” versus one of safety or certainty. I tend to favor the former. 


What are some artists, authors, or texts that have influenced your thinking?

Eek. I guess if I’m being honest: That kind-of-cheesy “Art and Fear” when I was 14, Kundera’s “Unbearable Lightness of Being,” Nicole Eisenman’s paintings, and “Love is a Dog from Hell” by Bukowski.


YouTube recommendation?

It’s a metaphor for life. And it’s a rabbit.


Music in the studio?

Recently, I only listen to the weird robotic chirps that my birds make, but sometimes I like music. I was on a Neil Young bender for a while. Cumbia, The Business, or LCD Soundsystem are usually on repeat.


On the horizon?

I have a group show at Page Bond in Richmond in July, the VCU Painting Alumni show coming up soon, and then a September show through Art Helix in NYC, where I’m currently in residency.


What are you excited for this summer?

Everything about it, it’s my favorite time of year. 

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