Meet Johnson Simon


As of this writing, Johnson Simon is officially the newest Harrison Center artist, having moved into his studio space on August 8. When I spoke with him that day it became clear, based on his passion and devotion to creating art, that he will fit in as well as stand out around here. He is extremely enthusiastic about his new studio space, and if you are lucky enough to have a conversation with him regarding art, I predict you will be uplifted as I was.

I am not the first person to write about Johnson. If you “Google” him you’ll be able to access lots of information about this uniquely inspiring person. (One of the best examples is an article from the April 25, 2019 edition of the Indy Star which gives many details about his childhood and his life story.) He recently completed his Masters Degree in Fine Arts at Herron School of Art and Design, and he is also wrapping up a year as the winner of the Stutz Artist Association Residency. Besides the fact that he is a richly talented painter, Johnson has had cerebral palsy since birth, and the impact of his limitations has informed his art-making in powerful ways.

Because of the difficulty Johnson has in moving his body, he experiences freedom of movement through the use of his brush on canvas. He uses unique brush strokes to capture motion. As an undergrad, he spent time sketching and studying the movement of dancers in the dance department, later replicating their movement with his brush. The thesis work for his Masters degree would become a show called, “Step Into Our Shoes” and featured artwork that represented his study of people with physical and mental limitations. For this show, Johnson made studies of his models using a 3D scanner, then created larger, highly expressive images based on them. The 3D pieces were later displayed along with the larger works which they had inspired. When he paints the human form it is infused with emotion, asking us to consider the ways that our limitations impact our physical expression. One of the goals of this art was for people to experience understanding and compassion. Since his disability makes it difficult for him to express himself vocally as easily as he would like, his art is a voice for him to express his story. He says, ”If you want to discover who I am, study my paintings. My painting is my book.”

Johnson will be sharing studio space with glass-maker Matt Kenyon and interdisciplinary artist Shamira Wilson in their studio which is right off of the Underground. I encourage you to seek out Studio #050 on your next First Friday adventure!