Prizewinning artist, writer and photographer Sandee Johnson has traveled the world mastering techniques including mixed media, acrylic, collage, pen and ink, encaustic, oil and cold wax, paper-making, printmaking, and altered photography. She is inspired by the joys of nature, environmental and political concerns, foreign culture, dance, and countless other visual feasts. In addition, she has exhibited in Paris, Moscow, Rome, Brussels, London, Budapest, Washington, D.C., New York City, and many other locations. On display at The North Carolina Arboretum, Sandee’s newest exhibit, Botanica: Botanical Monoprints, focuses on capturing the essence of botanical specimens using water-based inks and an etching press to add each layer to a monoprint until it is rich with intricate details and impressions of nature. I recently had a chance to connect with Sandee and ask her about her history, ideals and current exhibit at the Arboretum.
- What led you to become an artist? I think it dates back to my childhood; my mother was well known in central Virginia as an artist, photographer and writer. She was my first inspiration and mentor. Though I’ve delved into various other fields, I’m always drawn back to the creative realms.
- What do you like and dislike about printmaking? I love the immediate gratification and surprise when you pull a print from your etching press. You might anticipate certain results, but come up with something entirely different. That’s the love/hate relationship…you can never completely get what you desired when you are working with fresh plant life. Since I use more collage and other mediums in my process, I’m not as “pure” of a printmaker as some other artists.
- What are some of the recent trends that you see in the field of printmaking? More people are concerned with the toxicity of some printmaking products, so they are changing to more health-conscious alternatives. Since my Botanica series only involves mono printing and not etchings, lithographs and other techniques, the major trend that affects me is the use of water-based inks such as Akua. I no longer get near oil-processed printmaking.
- What drew you to approach the Arboretum to display your work? It seemed like a natural fit; the Arboretum features both natural and managed landscapes. This series represents my personal view of the beauty only replicated by nature. After exploring the property outdoors, it’s effective to have an exhibition that has a similar, cohesive content.
- How do you think your art inspires visitors of the Arboretum? The feedback has been very positive. I think the conglomeration of nature prints, in addition to my drawings, collage material and other processes, appeals to the viewer who appreciates layers of work. The more you study each print, the more you discover hidden details. In that this is winter and we are all awaiting spring, you can get a foreshadowing of the next season with the colors and an uplifting point of view.
Open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. thru April 17, 2016, Botanica: Botanical Monoprints by Sandee Johnson is located on the second floor gallery in the Education Center at The North Carolina Arboretum. All pieces are available for purchase and a portion of the proceeds will benefit The North Carolina Arboretum Society.