From January 11 through March 5, 2021, the exhibition Works by William E. Johnson will be on view at Mary Baldwin’s Hunt Gallery.
A native of Albemarle County, Johnson started his creative journey at the early age of nine when he discovered that he had a special ability. Growing up in the country, Johnson would collect bugs, shells, rocks, and dried plants, and draw from observation. He taught himself how to use shading to make his drawings have a sense of volume and life.
He also was inspired to create art from his grandmother, mother, classmates, and the village where he grew up.
The civil rights movement, integration, cultural identity, self-discovery, and understanding have been the main sources of his work.
The artist writes the following about his work:
My work reflects the experiences of African Americans. As an artist, I am driven by needs that are both aesthetic, spiritual, and social.
I am in search of cultural identity, self-discovery, and understanding. It is very important that my work becomes a vital community resource. I want to establish a direct relationship with people of all socioeconomic and educational levels. I want my work to reflect a continuum of aesthetic principles derived from Africa and America.
My challenge, as an artist, is to find ways to use both the spiritual and material powers of art in such a way that my expressions become a vehicle for the understanding of people.
Johnson earned his bachelor of fine arts from Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) where he majored in painting and printmaking. Currently an adjunct professor at Virginia State University and VCU’s Art Education Department. He served as a secondary art teacher for Richmond Public Schools for 29 years, retiring in June 2019. He is one of the co-founding members of BAAAR (Black American Artists Alliance — Richmond).
Hunt Gallery is dedicated to the exhibition of contemporary work in all media by regionally and nationally recognized artists. The gallery is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday during the academic year. Visitors to the gallery will be limited to 30 visitors at a time, maintaining 6 feet of social distance and all parties wearing masks. Hunt Gallery’s schedule for the 2020–21 academic year can be found online.
This exhibition is part of MBU’s Black History Month celebration.