Kathryn-kay Johnson (b. Saint Andrew, Jamaica) is an artist living and working in Brooklyn, NY. Her work has shown in NYC, New Haven, CT and Miami, FL. She was recently commissioned to create a public installation at Yale Marquand Chapel. She received her MFA from Yale School of Art in 2022.
I work in painting, installation, and digital media, making works that evoke experiences of collective effervescence and ancestral memory. My practice is influenced by histories and mythologies remembered orally, spiritually, and rhythmically, while considering issues around class, autonomy, colonialism, and contemporary media practices.
My practice focuses on experimentation and play with materials. I work with tarp, recycled textiles, spray paint, stitching, and whatever feels right in the moment. I work digitally using design software, and physically, with collage and painting. I create pieces that exist between the ordinary, embodying that of something that was picked up off the street or from the natural environment, and a more rythmic, oscillating, machine-ish, mythological object.
My work is influenced by all the places I’ve lived, and the places that I never lived, but dreamt of as a kid. Growing up in South Florida, my family would tell me stories about life in Jamaica. The sense of “the land” was always on my mind as something between this magical, mythical fantasy place, and as something I worried about practically. I would watch shiny new steel and glass condominiums go up, blocking access to public beaches, and see elders point to areas of sawgrass or wildflowers and prophesize: “in the next few years that will all be luxury apartments.” I grew up wondering/worrying about the concepts of home and stability. At the same time, my work became influenced by the introduction of street art in Wynwood, and art fairs and public art in Miami.
The oral histories have developed into mythological landscapes. Environmental concerns around flooding, housing, and neocolonialism exist in my practice conceptually, and through material explorations. I also think about the role that the history of American landscape painting has played in shaping American imperialism. In my practice, I reflect on all of this while working through the awkward sense of responsibility that I feel trying to create new images of the world, that speak of both a hopeful futurism and of the imprint of environmental traumas, past and ongoing.