Artist finds beauty in sandAlthough Michael Johnson spends hours using his creativity, talent and imagination to create beautiful paintings, the finished works of art are only temporarily enjoyed before being discarded.
By: Regan Carstensen, The Republican Eagle
Although Michael Johnson spends hours using his creativity, talent and imagination to create beautiful paintings, the finished works of art are only temporarily enjoyed before being discarded.
The paintings lack permanency because they don’t employ oil- or water-based paints. They actually don’t use paint at all, though Johnson said his method brings about a similar result.
“It’s basically the same principal — just building light up from the surface,” he explained.
Still, Johnson’s medium of choice is much more down to earth than any kind of paint. In fact, it comes directly from the earth.
“My work is difficult to describe accurately, but essentially I create a sand painting on layers of cloth using natural sands and minerals from the deserts of the southwest United States,” Johnson said.
Born in Red Wing, Johnson has lived in Arizona for years. He spent the early 1980s living among tribes and learned the art of sand painting. He’s continued to develop those skills.
Johnson said sand painting is very spiritual to the Navajo culture, and the concept is used for healing. Navajo people will go to a medicine man and sit in the middle of the canvas while the work is being done.
“Sand painting is literally medicine to them,” Johnson explained.
For him, Johnson said sand painting is an art form that allows him to be spontaneous and hands-on while producing something unique time after time.
“I never know exactly what I’m going to create,” Johnson said.
Such was the case Thursday afternoon when the artist visited Deer Crest to demonstrate his work to the assisted living center residents.
“We’ve had a lot of art classes, but nothing like this,” Deer Crest activities director Jackie Brenne said. “I was very excited to have him come once I saw the artwork he sent me.”
The sand painting he created was his first ever in Minnesota.
About 50 residents of Deer Crest watched as Johnson dusted naturally colorful sands from Arizona, New Mexico and Utah onto a plain canvas to design a symmetrical final product.
“Don’t sneeze,” one of the residents jokingly warned him.
He may have just been teasing but the remark is realistic. Whether it’s as gentle as a ceiling fan or as strong as a large gust of wind, air movement affects the outcome of Johnson’s paintings. And since he doesn’t use glue to keep the sand on the canvas, all that’s left to remember them by are photographs he takes when the work is finished.
But that’s the way he prefers it.
“That’s kind of what makes them special. They’re not permanent,” Johnson said. “They’re kind of a reminder of all the things in our lives that aren’t permanent but we appreciate anyway.”