For Sarojini Jha Johnson, being an artist is a calling. “It made life interesting,” she explains, then adds “Maybe the boredom of my teen years caused it.”
Johnson is the juror for the annual Juried Student Exhibition, which opens this Saturday at Anderson University, from 3-5 pm. In conjunction with the Student Exhibition, Johnson will be showing her own work and giving a Gallery Talk as part of the Juror’s Exhibition in the West Gallery.
When asked about her perspective as a juror, she explains, “I use my experience and knowledge and try to be fair. Some works intrigue, some works are intense, some works are poetic, some are intellectual. It’s certainly a challenge.”
Her own experience as an artist certainly lends helpful perspective to Johnson’s role as a juror. Johnson works mostly in color intaglio, a form of printmaking. “I love the way prints look,” she says. “The impact of pressure on ink. I love the lines and the glow of the color.” Johnson has exhibited her prints in the United States and internationally; many are included in permanent collections throughout the country.
In her work, Johnson places natural forms in fictional contexts to reflect on her experiences and family roots in India. Indian plants, animals, deities and food frequently appear in her images, arrayed in a variety of vibrant colors. In her artist statement she writes, “Uprooted people often experience a longing for things that remind them of their former home. This sort of nostalgia or yearning for familiar things, especially food, has been a part of my family's experience for as long as I can remember.”
Much of Johnson’s influence can be drawn from her parents, who have shared the traditions of India through storytelling and their own daily practice. “My mother makes wonderful Indian food. I love her spinach pakora and mint chutney. It is indescribably good. It tastes fresh and complex.” Johnson’s father was both a scientist and painter. She recalls his seriousness about his work and his respect for art and artists. He became a great source of inspiration and support to her own interests as an artist.
Johnson has been an advocate for other Southeast Asian artists, whose art is often concerned with identity and issues concerning social justice. She explains, “I believe that the dialog about culture and nationality is vital and that the visual arts are an important forum for communication of the subtleties and variations of individual viewpoints.”
In addition to her career as a printmaker, Sarojini is also a professor of art at Ball State University, where she teaches courses in printmaking and foundations. With nearly thirty years of teaching experience, she gives this advice to students: “[Learn] perseverance and willingness to really work hard at something in the face of uncertainty. Have humility and appreciation for people who dedicated themselves to their work. Belief in the importance of art is also essential. Respect people who take an interest in you and try to help you.”
All lessons essential to the artist’s calling.
The Jessie C. Wilson Galleries serve Anderson University and East Central Indiana with monthly exhibitions that feature the work of regionally and nationally recognized artists. Through these exhibitions, the gallery is dedicated to enriching and engaging AU students, as well as promoting the visual arts within the greater community.
For more information, contact the director of exhibitions programming, Tai Lipan, at (765) 641-4320 or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Gallery hours are Monday - Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. or by appointment. Visit the Wilson Galleries online to learn about other upcoming gallery events.
About the Department of Art+Design The Department of Art+Design at Anderson University offers majors in the areas of fine arts studio, visual communication design, and visual arts education. Students gain experience through intensive studio practice, professional internships, and by working closely with a faculty of professional artists and designers.
Anderson University is a private Christian university of about 2,600 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson University continues to be recognized as one of America's top colleges by U.S. News and World Report, The Princeton Review, and Forbes. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, music, nursing, and theology.