Interdisciplinary artist: Clarakhay Johnson
She grew up in Rochester, New York in the United States of America (USA) and is the youngest of eights siblings and currently lives in Houston Texas. This woman’s creative knacks became evident from an early age to her family and friends. Later on in life, she finally decided that her destiny laid in being an artist. Clarakhay Johnson is a self-trained, interdisciplinary and internationally renowned artist based in Raleigh, North Carolina. She believes that her talents were passed on to her by her maternal grandfather Benjamin R. Harrison who is the originator of the Johnson C. Smith University in North Carolina, USA.
The artist enjoys exploring and molding various mediums into striking works of art. She articulates that her work aims to capture the viewer, and take them to unseen places that may evoke something inside. “I am fascinated by elements of nature, the subtle shades that make up our picturesque and the perfect spaceship we call Earth. I am taken by the unwavering diversity of trees. These elements form a huge part of my work in which I add multiple layers of colours, paper, textures, copper wire and organic beads to create a unique piece”, explains Clarakhay. Her objective is to give evidence to the naked eye of the creativity that world possess.
She has exhibited her work in Raleigh where she resides, and has also branched out to other regions in the USA, garnering awards along the way which include the Best in Show and first place for Abstract Art the Romare Bearden Art at Topsail Island Art Festival in 2011. In the next year she walked away with Second Place Halle Cultural Art Centre, Apex NC and topped it off with the Bombay ARTISAN series in 2013.
To add on to her list of engagements as a visual artist, Johnson will be a participant in the International ArtLit Exhibition under the Northern Cape Writers Festival of 2019 in collaboration with the William Humphreys Art Gallery, Sol-Plaatje University and the Department of Sports Arts and Culture. When asked how she feels about the project and coming to Africa, she expressed her excitement, “I hope to connect with wonderful and enriching people in South Africa, Kimberley. I hope to see inspiring, natural and handmade artifacts and sites. I am grateful to get to share my creativity on this platform.”
The artist completed an Artist Residency in Marnay France which involved the study of eugenics and botanicals while creating works around these topics for her exhibitions. She further exhibited her work in Barcelona. “I also worked with Durham Medical Orchestra in creating a series of works centered on the theme, City Trees”, she explains.
Apart from art and nature, Clarakhay also has interests in science and travelling. “I also served as a curator, teacher, juror, mentor and speaker.” Her most notable engagement is titled “What is Ethnic Art?” a talk she conveyed at the TedXDurham in 2016, which explored the unconscious biases and her journey in the art industry.
Clarakhay Johnson says that she is inspired by Jacob Lawrence’s work. “He was a master of push and pull; contrast as well as Norman Lewis who is a hero to me. This is a man that evolved from an artist creating work that would be readily assumed to be created by a black person into a an abstract artist where the ethnicity of the artist was ambiguous.”
Clarakhay says that her work is very much like Lewis’s work in that it depicts no ethnic identification. She has much appreciation for his later works of art. “His work gives me courage to continue creating what I see in my mind’s eye instead of trying to create what I may think is popular, she remarked.