North Carolina Landscapes Inspire Ethereal, Universalist Art: Durham Boasts Clara K. Johnson Exhibit
As a child, Clara K. Johnson’s interests were drawing, coloring, and the solar system. When I met her almost two years ago at a Triangle Creative Capital retreat, that sense of whimsy lit her personality, and spoke to me through her art.
A self-trained artist originally from Rochester, New York, growing up she spent summers in Wendell, North Carolina, with her father’s parents.
Having helped her late father with wood work projects growing up, she credits him and her late maternal grandfather, Benjamin R. Harrison, the creator of Johnson C. Smith University’s mascot, “The Golden Bull,” in Charlotte, as influences on her art.
I approach my work with the idea of creating something beautifully complex to draw the viewer in, around and through the piece, transporting them elsewhere. My work is abstract, depicting celestial movements, or landscapes of textures and colors.
As for personal inspiration, she cites, “The sheer awe of life, nature.” And it’s true. Johnson’s curiosity about life and beyond it lurk at the edge of her personal exploration of life, thus her art.
“Our planet’s but a space ship orbiting a sun, and the ride is so smooth! What power controls this?”
Describing her work as emotive, ethereal, transcendental, and unique, she’s shown in galleries all over the country, though she chooses always to come back to the Triangle. “I love North Carolina. It’s a beautiful state, and my imagination is deeply influenced by its beautiful landscapes.”
It isn’t all about beauty and personal ties. She feels strongly about living here. “My work impacts the Triangle by its universality. It offers a tranquil and transcendent quality this go-getting area needs.”
Johnon’s current exhibit, Rock. Paper. Scissors. at Manbite’s Dog Theater on Foster Street in Durham can be seen until 5 March.
She also proudly proclaims her home as a Show Home, with the first floor displaying art in a cozy setting, and the second floor laid out as a salon-style exhibit, and she welcomes personal viewings. Johnson says nothing is off-limits in art. She creates murals and personalized pieces, and revamps shoes and clothing. “Everything is a blank canvas to me.”