Columbus Makes Art Presents Lance Johnson on the Power of the Urban Environment

Michelle Tavenner Michelle Tavenner Columbus Makes Art Presents Lance Johnson on the Power of the Urban EnvironmentMixed media artist Lance Johnson's POST NO ILLS at the MAC debuts Jan 20. Photo by Dave Toth.
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Lance Johnson is a Columbus-based mixed media artist. Originally from the Bronx, Lance uses his experience of the vibrant urban landscape in his works to celebrate and center inspiration. Lance Johnson: POST NO ILLS at the MAC, presented by PNC Arts Alive, will be on display at the Peggy R. McConnell Arts Center from Jan. 20 – March 12.

Michelle: Who or what inspires your art?
Lance: I’m inspired by the energy of urban environments. The movement, the sounds, the creativity and the diversity inspires my work. I was born and raised in New York (the Bronx), and the spirit of the city is prevalent in my art.

I’ve always had an affinity for words

-Lance Johnson

Michelle: You often do live painting to musical accompaniment. How does the music impact your creation?
Lance: Like jazz, my work is mostly improvisational. Music is very present in my process. I listen to hip hop and jazz mostly when I paint. Music creates the vibe for me. My painting flows with the rhythm.

Mixed-media artist Lance Johnson.
Mixed-media artist Lance Johnson.

Michelle: What words, phrases or quotes speak to you the most and why?
Lance: I studied journalism in college so I’ve always had an affinity for words. Words have power and they can be used to inspire or harm. I always want to use words that inspire in my art. Words like, PEACE, LOVE, SHINE, DREAM, WISDOM, BEAUTY. I want these words to resonate with the viewers of my work.

Michelle: When did you first discover your passion for creating art?
Lance: When I was 14, my mom showed me a documentary called I’ll Make Me a World about the Harlem Renaissance. It had such a profound effect on me. At the time, I didn’t realize it, but a seed was planted in me. I wanted to be like those artists that I saw, especially Romare Bearden, the amazing collage artist of the time. They were all collaborating and inspiring each other, and it seemed so cool and inspiring.

Michelle: Who are your favorite artists and why?
Lance: I have a few, but the two that come to mind are Jean-Michel Basquiat, and a contemporary artist, José Parlá. I love Basquiat because he was fearless. He was prolific and he painted on everything from walls, windows and even refrigerator doors. The world was his canvas and that resonates with me. I love José Parlá’s abstract graffiti because of the improvisational nature of his process and his celebration and elevation of the graffiti that inspired us both growing up.

Michelle: What’s the best thing about the Columbus art scene right now?
Lance: The best thing to me is the collaborative spirit of the community. There is so much talent and passion in this city, and I’m always looking to connect with other artists and find ways to collaborate.

Lance Johnson painting. Photo by Jamie Caesar.
Lance Johnson painting. Photo by Jamie Caesar.

See Lance Johnson: POST NO ILLS at the MAC, presented by PNC Arts Alive, from Jan. 20 – March 12 at the Peggy R. McConnell Arts Center, 777 Evening St. in Worthington.

Columbus Makes Art Presents is a bi-weekly column brought to you by the Greater Columbus Arts Council – supporting and advancing the arts and cultural fabric of Columbus. The column is a project of the Art Makes Columbus campaign, telling the inspiring stories of the people and organizations who create Columbus art. Learn more about local artists, organizations, public art and events at

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