We had the good fortune of connecting with Kate Johnson and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kate, do you have some perspective or insight you can share with us on the question of when someone should give up versus when they should keep going?
I’m not sure I ever give up on a piece. Sometimes an artwork might change as I am making it due to either limitations or realizations. What I envisioned in my mind changes as it takes physical form. This can be because of a realization in making and building the piece that leads me in a new direction. It can be because as I make it I see potential for something else. The original idea is never discarded or given up on but is morphed into something new. There’s also always those artworks that just are made easily and come together as I had originally intended. I guess my answer to this question is that I just always keep going. If you think of art making as a practice, there is nothing to be given up on but only more to be learned and discovered as you keep up the practice of making.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I think the biggest challenge for any artist is honestly money. There are of course some hugely successful rockstar artists out there but they are not the norm. Most of us make money not off of our art but in other ways. Teaching, freelancing, bartending whatever gives us flexibility to also be able to have time in our studios or garages to make work. I used to teach art full time and although I found great value in working with my students, it was a draining job for me. I slowly was becoming a career educator, working my way up from teacher to administrator. I think the best thing I did for my art practice was to stop teaching full time and find other ways to make money that allowed me the time to also make work. It was hard to step away from a solid career. But now when people ask me about my job I say I am an artist first instead of I am a teacher. Now that I have put art making in the foreground, my practice has become more consistent and I have been able to make new bodies of work in the last couple years that I didn’t have the time and consistency to develop before.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
It’s a weird time to think about where to send people in Los Angeles as we have been in quarantine for so long. The biggest thing I miss and can’t wait to go back to is seeing art in person. I would direct anyone here on a museum and gallery tour around Los Angeles. Go to the MOCA Geffen and then cruise through Little Tokyo. Check out the Kyoto Garden at the Hilton Double Tree roof top and then on to Hama Sushi for dinner. Pop by Wolf and Crane for drinks after and then on to Max Karaoke to finish off the night. Another art based excursion is to go to Hauser and Wirth for a show. I always stop in the book shop there after and often find myself grabbing a book to add to my overflowing bookcase of art books in my studio. Then go to Manuela and treat yourself to a drink and read your new book. Finally I would say to go to the Broad. First, immediately sign up for a time to see the Yayoi Kusama piece on the ground floor. Then take your time looking through the collection. After the Broad, walk across the street to MOCA Grand Avenue. Then head on over to Grand Central Market for a snack or dinner. I miss being out in the world. I miss seeing art. I miss exploring this city with my friends. I hope to one day do all these things again.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
In the last couple years I would have to say that the artist Stacy Elaine Dacheux has been a huge influence, support system and inspiration. We have had some of the best conversations about being artists, mothers, managing time and our work. I miss the time we used to spend together in a coffee shop in Sierra Madre coming up with ideas for a podcast, writing together and thinking of future plans. I gave birth to my daughter during the pandemic in May and Stacy has continued to not only be someone I can talk to about parenting but also someone who is pushing and encouraging me as an artist. In this time of quarantine and new parenthood it has been hard to really find the time or inspiration to even think about art but after talking or texting with Stacy I find myself writing and making some work that I honestly don’t know if I would have made without her influence. I have a deep respect for her and her work and I always find her to be an inspiration for me both professionally and personally. Check out her instagram @stacyelainedacheux to see her outstanding work.