Your Dream is You Contest

Recently I participated in the “Your Dream is You” contest, an exhibition to be held in Istanbul, Turkey. It was planned for this year but now will be held once the pandemic allows. I was surprised and so honored to have two (!) images selected for the exhibition: “fatigue” and “agency.” A slideshow of the winning images are on Facebook. A heartfelt thank you to the judges.

covid, sickness, pandemic
fatigue
covid 19, pandemic, art
agency

Creating Images During the Pandemic

Early in March 2019 my doctor asked me to start working from home because I have a problem in my immune system that puts me at risk for serious complications from Covid-19. The pandemic hadn’t yet hit the Charlotte/Lake Norman area very hard yet, but she knew it was coming soon and wanted me to take two weeks off “to let the virus pass through.” Then I could go back to work. Needless to say, this has been the longest two weeks either of us have experienced. The governor shut the state down two weeks later and I had already gotten ill with what we believed to be Covid-19 (this was before tests were readily or easily available in our area). During the time I was ill, I had more time to create art than usual (although, honestly, I slept most of the time).

The pandemic was in the forefront of my mind when I created the first two pieces while ill. Image number one had come after seeing so many images of grieving and death. It was a very a dark time–and one increasingly full of despair. I didn’t want to make a piece of art that only represented the grimness of the new reality. There was darkness. But there was also love.

And hope.

pandemic image
wounded spectre

The second image is “the weight of hearts,” which was the one chosen for “Windows of Hope” in Charlotte and for the 2020 Mira Mobile Prize exhibition in Porto, Portugal. Some of the same thought process went into its creation, with the exception that I wanted to emphasize the dimension of hope even more. The piece represents an intersection of earthly and spiritual planes. A transcendence in life and death–but the heaviness of love, and the loss of so many, is still very real.

pandemic art
the weight of hearts

I did do a type of variant of the above themes later in the year. I began by playing with the idea of one’s relationship with one’s sel(ves). At the same time the pandemic as well as the images I had made earlier helped to shape this new piece. For me art is multivalent in its creation.

pandemic art, multiselves
revenant (lost self)

The other works I created early to mid 2020 didn’t have to do with the pandemic directly, but I found that I had become more playful. Hearts became a symbol of the weight of human emotion while also maintaining an element of hope.

  • longing, love
  • love, loss, play
  • longing, love
  • choice, chance, love
  • love, Radiohead

The works I did towards the end of the year had Covid as a constant backdrop in their creation, but only two referenced it more directly.

The first was “agency,” which didn’t start as an image having anything to do with the pandemic. It started with thinking about the (seeming) duality of the self. It continued that theme as it formed but I intuitively found myself adding a red mask and gloves. The context in part was the (sometimes violent) debate about mask-wearing in the US.

covid 19, pandemic, art
agency

One image I did near the end of the year is a self-portrait. Its title is “fatigue.” I had the virus earlier in the year, but its effects lingered well into December. I would have flare ups with crushing fatigue and leg pain. For several months I found myself out of breath and needing nebulizer treatments if I overworked (knowing where that line lay was a constant experiment). The piece doesn’t just talk about physical fatigue but also psychical fatigue. Lack of physical contact with family and friends as well as the constant barrage of negative and depressing political and socioeconomic news was itself like an enervating virus.

covid, sickness, pandemic
fatigue

In July, Joanne Carter of The App Whisperer asked to interview me on the topic of “Hope in Adversity” as part of a series of interviews with mobile artists about isolation and art during the pandemic. I’ve had more time to reflect on my art since then, but the thing in the interview that still stands out to me is the appreciation of the online mobile community. Despite all the negative things about social media (and there are many), the deepening of my involvement with the community of mobile artists on Facebook and Instagram helped keep me afloat and moving forward creatively and even spiritually in 2020. It will definitely also be part of my post-Covid world as well. .

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween, everyone! I created a few pieces (initially posted on Instagram) with this All Hallows’ Eve in mind. As I created the second one, “Run Away! Run Away!,” it brought me back to a repetitive nightmare I used to have as a child. In that dream, I was chased through the woods by something or someone I couldn’t see, but feel. They kept chasing until the dream abruptly ended as I crossed the boundary between the woods and our front yard. I’d not thought about that dream in some time.

May your Halloween is spooky and fun!

first-haunting-flickr-med

First Haunting

Run Away! Run Away!

Run Away! Run Away!

The Clearing

The Clearing

 

Not Quite Morning

I walked into the kitchen this morning and saw the yard was covered in fog. The sun streamed itself through tree limbs and mist. I immediately rushed outside and stayed out so long it almost make me late for work. This image is from one of the photos I took.

I called this piece “Not Quite Morning.” I think it’s a great title for the feel and look of this image, but I also think that it resonates with how I feel in my own life right now. After constant illness for over two years (rarely well for more than 2-3 weeks at a time), I finally found out at the end of the summer that I have an immune deficiency called selective IGg deficiency. It means I don’t produce enough IgG antibodies and therefore can’t fight off illness as well as I should. It was a relief to find out why I was always ill, but now I’m in the midst of trying to figure out how to treat it. Supposedly I will struggle with it for the rest of my life. The first course of treatment is to take prophylactic antibiotics, which I started. But between that and two other rounds of antibiotics for a nasty sinus infection, I developed something called c. diff (c. difficile) which is a nasty bacterial infection in the colon caused by antibiotics killing off all the good bacteria and leaving these c. diff troublemakers to wreak havoc. I’m just getting over that and I’m finally beginning to feel well. But there are many unknowns still about how I will move forward and create a life under newly-learned constraints. It’s not quite morning yet–I’m still finding my way through the last dregs of the night. But I can see the light.

not-yet-morning-melissa-d-johnston-flickr-1024

This photo was taken in black and white with the MPro app with an iPhone 6 Plus and then edited with with an IPad Pro using Snapseed, Stackables app, Distressed FX, and PhotoToaster. The little boy is from a photo taken in September. I used Image Blender for the layers and Pixelmator to do a tiny bit of shadow painting.

ghosts and shadows series xviii-xx

These are the newest works in the “ghosts and shadows” series.

ghosts and shadows xviii-carried by time

ghosts and shadows xviii-carried by time

ghosts and shadows xix-sleepwalking through time

ghosts and shadows xix-sleepwalking through time

ghosts and shadows xx-time and the bucket

ghosts and shadows xx-time and the bucket

Photos and Edits from North Myrtle Beach June 2016

Every year my family gets together for a vacation in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. I’ve been going there–missing a year here and there–since I was thirteen years old. Now all of us kids are grown and we bring our own kids. It’s always a laid back time. We soak up the sun and sound of the surf, swim in the saltwater waves, and catch up on our sleep with afternoon naps safe from the sun in our cavelike blackout-curtained rooms (well, I nap at least ๐Ÿ˜‰ ). These are some photos and edits I made last week.

Ghost and Shadows: “the being of time” and “nite lite”

This past week’s additions to the “Ghost and Shadows” series.

ghosts and shadows xvii: the being of time

ghosts and shadows xvii: the being of time

ghost and shadows xvi: nite lite

ghost and shadows xvi: nite lite

Ghosts and Shadows series: “summers gone” and “hide and seek”

Recent additions to the “Ghosts and Shadows” mobile series…

ghosts and shadows xiv: summers gone

ghosts and shadows xiv: summers gone

ghosts and shadows xv: hide and seek

ghosts and shadows xv: hide and seek

Two more from the Ghosts and Shadows series

Here are recent additions to the Ghosts and Shadows series.

ghosts and shadows xii-collecting FLICKR L

ghosts and shadows xii: collecting

ghosts and shadows xiii-visit FLICKR L

ghosts and shadows xiii: visit

The whole series is on Instagram, although it’s interspersed with other mobile photography/artistry work.