Joanna Johnson is a self-taught artist and illustrator, social worker by trade and single mom to 5-year-old Selma based in Malmo, Sweden with roots from both Sweden and Sierra Leone, West Africa. She is also a beloved member of the Jaguar community and the featured artist and illustrator for the newly release Fourth Trimester Journal.
This summer, Joanna was one of only 12 students to be selected the first time she applied for the highly competitive art school, Östra Grevie, known for its programs in visual arts, graphics, and textile art with training in business development as well.
She has been a social worker for the past 15 years and has been on leave for the past year because of burnout and an autoimmune condition.
Art school is an opportunity for Joanna to make a leap outside of the "system" to be an art student, and then a freelance artist and pursue her true calling, which means she will forfeit the only career and safety net she's known.
The Swedish system - education, social work, and social services - is quite different than the US system. The bottom line is that she cannot take this opportunity- if we don't come together to support her at this time. It will be a one-hour commute each way to and from school- made mostly by bike. It simply wouldn't be possible to parent Selma, have a job, and go to this art school without financial support.
In order to make the leap - as a Black woman coming out of a tough upbringing and a career of service and towards her calling and true talent as an artist embodying and creating and communicating truth, joy, and resilience - she needs our support and donations.
Joanna has worked in mixed mediums but always returning to her signature black and white, bold graphic style in ink and acrylic, exploring themes around motherhood, identity, gender, race, and capitalism.
In recent years, through her growing interest in trauma and healing, she explores a holistic understanding beyond the divide of body and soul that often dominates the western approach in health and medical science.
Her father is from Freetown, Sierra Leone - the capital named so originally for being the new home for resettled freed slaves from Britain and North America. Her identity and her art express the returning to freedom, returning home, as both her ancestry and future.
Through this program, for the first time she will have access to teaching, mentorship, and new media so that she can fully devote her time to making art. (and, of course, mothering.)
At the Art Museum in Malmo, where she lives, there are zero Black employees. As a queer Black woman, both her presence in the Swedish art scene, as well as the content of her work, offer a fresh perspective.
For the past fifteen years, her social work was her activism. Now it's time to pump life into this new form of her activism which is her art.
I know that hers is work that will have a long life and deep significance.
Iconic and memorable, she can shape movements.
A message from Kimberly- how you can help:
We (Kimberly and Joanna) went through all of the options of how we could make this happen. Ever since I saw Joanna's artwork, I knew I had to support it in any way that I could and I asked her to contribute her artwork to the Fourth Trimester Journal.
I gave up some of my royalties so that Joanna would also receive royalties from the Journal (since artwork is so central to this work).
Art is sometimes regarded as decoration or accessory rather than central and core. Part of the mind/body; heaven/earth; spiritual/sexual; holy/dirty split we've inherited is the elevation of the intellect over the visceral- words over art. Valuing art is also valuing the unseen, valuing the creative act itself, valuing what connects us as humans and valuing the very essential elements of what it means to be a human at all.
I knew that Joanna's archetypal artwork was essential to the framing of the power of new motherhood that I wanted to convey. I also felt that her artwork would be a main reason why people would buy the journal, more so than for my reputation or my works.
The covers of the Fourth Trimester Journal and Cards were both watercolors which are extraordinary. For the Fourth Trimester Journal, I wanted to showcase the power, strength and ferocity that is motherhood, as well as centering the experiences conveyed and representations made by a Black mother. Joanna made the artwork for the Journal while in the MotherCircle and Jaguar courses.
Because of the Swedish laws, Joanna is not permitted to offer any exchange for these gifts/donations. For instance, she can't sell prints in this instance, or do a Patreon where you get something tangible in return for your donation.
So we humbly ask your support for the journey of this one Black queer single mother, who is trying to make a leap out of the dependency on the "system" -- of working for the government as well as all the benefits that go along with it -- to seize this opportunity and move closer to making a livelihood from her true gifts- moving people through with her artwork.
I can't wait to see what she makes next!
You can view more of Joanna's artwork here:
Be sure to read the captions.
You can see more of the Fourth Trimester Journal here: