Johnny Smith, 36, is a digital collagist who merges images of different natures to ultimately result in very true piece despite the dissonant contrast. His collages are a fun and wacky commentary on internet, pornography, even Disney's perfect-princess culture. “Themes of humor, surrealism, sexuality, pop culture, provocation and stupidity exist in my artwork” He explains. “[What I want to provoke is] A smile, a rolling of the eyes, a momentary escape.”
Name Jonathan Smith (although I go by "Johnny" and sometimes I put "The" in the front of it)
Birthday 01/19/1980. Now that you know, I expect a gift.
Where were you born? United States of America
Where do you currently live? United States of America
Preferred art medium: Digital Collage. And filmmaking.
Hobby or interest aside from art? Writing plays, seeing films, acting, dancing, stand up comedy, smothering my dog Freeway with kisses and laughing as he gets annoyed by me.
Guilty pleasures? Booze. Popcorn. Sleeping. Watching Gilmore Girls while I clean my apartment or while doing anything. Makes me feel more clever through osmosis.
Who are some of your favorite artists? Hannah Hoch, Woody Allen, Robert Altman.
Favorite movie? Tie: Shorts Cuts, Ed Wood, Husbands and Wives
Favorite book? I'm current reading "Fates & Furies" by Lauren Groff. So far so good!
Favorite song/album/band/musician? Way too many to have a favorite. Lately I've been listening to Brian Eno and Com Truise. "Doot Doot" by Freur has the most plays in my itunes, so maybe that's my favorite song?
What are 3 things you want to achieve? A wikipedia entry, a verified blue check mark by my name on Instagram and to turn the age of 121 years.
What is something you deeply love about yourself? I hate drama and love to laugh and usually am able to find people who feel the same way. I have tremendously great, funny friends. Also I'm pretty adaptable and can be around most types of people.
How has Instagram worked for you as an artist? Instagram is fantastic! I have been able to grow as an artist and share my work with people in countries that I may ever be able to visit in this lifetime. I've met heroes, made new ones and found inspiration all from scrolling through the app.
Briefly describe the circumstances under which you grew up? I grew up in Houston Texas. My birth mother died when I was 1 1/2 years old and then my step mother died when I was 20 years old. Both from cancer. My hypochondria stems from this I believe.
“I think having two mothers pass away from cancer in my youth pushed me into trying to create art that brings levity and laughter to this scary experience known as "life"
How do you think these circumstances influenced your art? I get anxiety easily and the only way to resolve it besides having an alcoholic beverage, is making collage art or watching comedy. I think having two mothers pass away from cancer in my youth pushed me into trying to create art that brings levity and laughter to this scary experience known as "life."
What would you say are your artwork’s main themes? I think themes of humor, surrealism, sexuality, pop culture, provocation and stupidity exist in my artwork. I'm a silly, stupid perv.
Can you remember a specific experience from your life that has shaped who you are and what you do as an artist today? I think saying bye to Mom # 2. forced me to appreciate my life moments more thoroughly and to create, create, create!!
What are you trying to communicate with your art? A smile, a rolling of the eyes, a momentary escape.
(Certain) Artists tend to have a stereotype attached to them of being dramatic with addictive personalities. What do you feel about this assumption? I don't know. I know artists that are humble, fun and brilliant and others that are dramatic, narcissistic and brilliant. I gravitate to the former. I feel like I am the former. I seriously don't take myself too seriously. Seriously.
As an artist, do you find yourself drawn to any addictive disorder? I like to drink. That's my main escape. I'm not an alcoholic, I'm a drunk...I don't go to meetings (I stole that line from Robin Harris.)
“Themes of humor,
surrealism, sexuality, pop culture, provocation and stupidity exist in my artwork”
Have you had any struggle with mental illness and if so, would you like to share your experience with us? I can get debilitating anxiety from time to time. I was in NYC last week and felt overwhelmed by the people, the buildings, its rhythm. I love NYC but it moves too fast for me, and I get anxious. I spent most of my time in the hotel room, making digital collages while half-watching old episodes of Gilmore Girls on ABC Family. That's my Xanax.
Artists paths are normally non-linear. Can you recall for us what your path has been like? I got my degree in filmmaking from the University of Texas in Austin. I was writing plays, scenes, screenplays and found a lot of satisfaction is the creation of them, but wasn't able to see them take off or really share them, so I got discouraged. I then got very excited about collage art, and the immediate gratification of creating them and sharing them instantly on Instagram. My creative brain hasn't been able to re-wire itself to write once again. Hopefully in the new year. It's good to change things up a bit so one doesn't get too bored.
What kind of patterns, routines or rituals do you have to keep the creative juices flowing? I go for long walks while I listen to music. That really inspires me for some reason. LA isn't a walking based city, so it's helpful to enjoy the moments that exist between destination A and destination B, which is absent when driving. Maybe that's why I get so anxious in NYC. There are overwhelming moments between the destinations and I can't handle it.
Do you think your ethnicity, gender, and/or personal preferences drove you towards becoming an artist? No, I think I just want to be more interesting to the very interesting persons that make up my coterie. I want to impress them. :)
If you could change one thing in how the world works, what would it be? One thing is so hard to choose, but I guess compassion. I would make everyone in the world have compassion.
What is your opinion of the art world as it is right now? is there anything you'd like to change? The art world is very political, very much a popularity contest and not so much about the work behind it. I'm okay with that. It is what it is and as long as it doesn't hinder my creativity, I can't really give a shit.
How do you think the internet aids/complements the art world? and how do you think it deteriorates it? The internet allows anyone and everyone to share their creativity and find a fan base. It's brilliant that way. It's so accessible and one no longer has to wait for a gallery or a space to showcase it. I'm pro-internet sharing, I want to get my shit out there for everyone who wants to see it to see it. I met someone in Hungary on IG and it was amazing because he would have never seen my work, and mine his, if it weren't for the internet and social media. I feel memes sometimes deteriorate the art work, but I do love a good meme!
How have you developed your own unique style? I'm not sure I have a unique style, I'm told I'm all over the place haha.
What is the main obstacle you have had to overcome as an artist? I need to edit more. I feel like I make a lot of work but I'm not enthusiastic about all of them, yet I post them or print them. Need to learn to edit. Show only the work I'm 100% behind.
Describe briefly the current cultural circumstances you live in now? I live in LA, the city of film and TV. And I love it. It's the easiest hard city to live in. And the art scene here is rapidly growing. It's no longer just film and TV...it's now also "art."
How do you think these circumstances influence your art? Not exactly sure if it does. If it does, I'm not aware of it.
Anything else you’d like to add? I'm a bit "slow" from Thanksgiving noshing and imbibing as I answer these questions, so I hope I don't come across too dumb. But if I do, I can't really change that. And thank you for reaching out to me. And Happy Thanksgiving!
“I would make everyone in the world have compassion.”
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