Art of nature: Poplarville native awarded MAC grant

Published 7:00 am Saturday, September 5, 2015

 Jaime Johnson’s photograph entitled “Spine.” Submitted photo

Jaime Johnson’s photograph entitled “Spine.”
Submitted photo

Poplarville native and artist Jaime Johnson recently received a $4,500 grant from the Mississippi Arts Commission to pursue her large-scale Cyanotype photographic prints.
Johnson is the daughter of Fred and Dorothy and a graduate of the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science in Columbus.
During her time at MSMS, her love for art and photography blossomed.
“I got a digital camera and every summer I went home, I used it all the time,” she said. “I took photos of lizards and enjoyed the wildlife around the area.”
In 2006, Johnson began classes at the University of Mississippi in Oxford to initially study graphic design. However, once she took a photography class, she knew that’s what she wanted to do.
“The Ole Miss Imaging Arts program is neat and includes information about video and that’s where I learned about alternative processes,” Johnson said. “I learned how to use a darkroom and how to process film. I also learned about digital photography and lighting.”
Since colleges in Mississippi do not offer graduate programs in photography, Johnson attended Louisiana Tech University to continue her studies.
“In graduate school they tell you to go out and make the photographs,” Johnson said. “Every day, no matter where I am, I’m always looking where the light is. I shoot outdoors a lot and I’m very inspired by the things I find.”
Johnson is a collector of turtle shells, animal bones and cicada wings, which she utilizes for inspiration.
“I think about an idea, collect things and live and interact with them for a bit,” she said. “I do like shooting some video and enjoy other forms of art as well.”
Johnson said applying for the grant wasn’t too difficult. She submitted a group of images and a short statement.
“I knew Mississippi had an Arts Commission and I didn’t see very many photographers,” Johnson said. “That encouraged me to apply.”
Johnson’s Cyanotype prints are actually a blueprint, she said.
“The photos are bright blue when I make them,” Johnson said. “I stain the photos with Lipton tea, which gives them that brown look. It’s one of the simpler historic processes.”
Johnson’s process begins with a digital negative being placed on a piece of transparency, which has to be the exact same size as the print. Next, she lays it on top of a piece of light sensitive paper and paints the cyanotype on top. Once dry, she puts the negative on top and exposes it to sunlight or a UV light.
She then processes the print in water and finally soaks the image in Lipton for anywhere up to six hours, Johnson said.
During graduate school, Johnson had access to a large- scale printer, which allowed her to create 30 by 40 inch prints.
This summer she began teaching art at the University of Mississippi, where she again has access to a large-scale printer.
With funds from the grant, which is made possible by funding from the Mississippi Legislature and the National Endowment for the Arts, Johnson can purchase more supplies, including a large roll of transparency.
Johnson’s work has been shown in many galleries including the Center for Fine Art Photography in Fort Collins, Colorado, The SOHO Photo Gallery in New York, The New Orleans Photo Alliance and the Ogden Museum of Southern Art in New Orleans, Louisiana.
For her, taking pictures provides the chance to escape from today’s technology driven and industrial society.
“Even if it’s your own backyard or side of the road, it’s an escape and sort of like a calming,” she said. “It’s a way for me to connect with the past, the more primitive days.”
For Johnson, growing up in a rural area like Poplarville, contributed to her love of the natural world.
“Poplarville is like a hidden secret,” Johnson said. “It’s quiet and I love all the trees and their smell. It’s so relaxing and calming. The wild animals are entertaining and I enjoy seeing them come to our house as a sanctuary.”
 Jaime Johnson is currently teaching art at the University of Mississippi, where she will continue working on her large-scale Cyanotype photographic prints.  Submitted photo

Jaime Johnson is currently teaching art at the University of Mississippi, where she will continue working on her large-scale Cyanotype photographic prints.
Submitted photo

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