Each week Bushwick Daily brings you a new Artist FlashCard introducing an amazing artist living/working/showing in Bushwick who you need to know. Featuring both new and old faces, our goal is to encourage the growth of art scene and to appreciate wonderful talent in our hood! If you know of an artist you would like to suggest for Artist FlashCards, please fill out our online form.

Who: Jessica Johnson 

Where: After studying biology and genetics in North Carolina, Jessica moved to Brooklyn to study art and new forms at Pratt. Her studio space is at Hot Wood Arts in Red Hook.

What: Science-based art that seeks to control what cannot be controlled—this artist/scientist is morbidly and avidly interested in the things that cause fear and anxiety (think disease and natural disasters). Exploring this form of art-marking became Jessica’s way of controlling the uncontrollable through beautiful sculptures handcrafted after scientific research.

Jessica Johnson in her Red Hook studio. All photos by Katie Killary for Bushwick Daily.

Where you’ve seen her work: Her sculpture Viral Storm was part of the Governors Island Art Fair last September. The color and beauty of Jessica’s viral works first caught our eye in Same Signs at Pearl May Gallery in March. The raw space of the venue was filled with fun, bright, seductive materials made into sculptures of various pathogens including influenza, tuberculosis, typhus and cholera. These sculptures, featuring pieces from Viral Storm, were crafted together with various items like sequins, lab equipment, golf tees and fuzzy pom-poms—all creating a bright tone with an underlying dark message.

Jessica’s pieces from ‘Viral Storm’ in ‘Same Signs’ at Pearl May Gallery in Clinton Hill (Photo courtesy of Will Hutnick).
Various works in Jessica’s studio, including pieces from her ‘Viral Storm’ installation on Governor’s Island, 2013, which contains 18,000 pieces of sequence and beading.

Why we’re into it: Like colonies of bacteria growing inside of a petri dish, the inspirations of Bushwick-based artist/scientist Jessica Johnson are multiplied by the creative energy colonizing around our neighborhood. Jessica was fascinated at an early age by the possibilities and revelations of scientific data while also gaining inspiration from art and media around her.

Jessica recently received a grant to sequence her own genome and create an installation based on the whole experience. Though excited to learn her entire genetic sequence, she knows this research comes with the risk of learning potential health issues. Despite the heavy weight of ethics here, as well as the weight of human history and human existence, the project lends itself to a great collaboration of art and science.

Through her work, Jessica has found that despite their vast differences, art and science are essentially accomplishing the same thing as they appeal to different aspects of the human spirit. Part visual and emotional, and part thoughtful, they can go hand in hand as they communicate with one another. “Being an artist and scientist appeals to my sensibilities and my desire to always explore. I’m learning more about both along the way.”

I find it aesthetically pleasing to see work that is obsessive in its nature yet contains a high level of control, then putting it into a form that the artist finds beautiful.

Jessica in her studio with ‘Smoke Signals’, a diptych accented by thousands of small black gems.