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The VCFA MFA in Graphic Design Program Blog

Huh? #41: Paulina M Johnson

October 26, 2019

This time around on “Huh?”, we take the time out to interview Paulina M Johnson, VCFA alum who has some big news… but first, her bio:

“A Wake” by Paulina M Johnson

Originally from Mexico City, via California, and South Carolina, Paulina has been immersed in the fields of art and graphic design for over 15 years. She received a B.F.A. from the Academy of Art University and the University of San Francisco in 1999. More recently, in October of 2017, she earned an M.F.A. from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. She is an adjunct professor at Colorado Mountain College (CMC) and an exhibiting partner at Pine Moon Fine Art Gallery. She lives in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, where she enjoys the mountains with her husband, two boys, and their dog, Diego.

“Green Floral” by Paulina M Johnson

What’s up, Paulina??

Hi! The big news is that as of August 2019 I am now a part-owner and permanent exhibiting member at Pine Moon Fine Art Gallery in downtown Steamboat Springs!

Pine Moon is an artist-owned gallery in downtown Steamboat Springs, CO. It’s been in existence since 2016. All owner/artists are local women, there are 14 of us. I was invited to be a guest member for three months starting in May, and then in August, I was invited to become a full member and part-owner of the gallery. As a collective, we all take care of different aspects of the business and work about three shifts per month. Our work encompasses many mediums including acrylic and oil, pencil and charcoal, photography, fibers, jewelry, bronze, glass, and paper (paper is me :). We are part of Steamboat’s First Friday Art Walk in which we open our doors every first Friday evening of the month for a town-wide art stroll through a variety of venues.

“Green Floral” by Paulina M Johnson

As a whole, the coolest thing about being part of this gallery is the fact that it’s a super supportive and nurturing context. All of us are wholeheartedly vested in our individual and collective success. We help each other in every aspect of the business, from curating and hanging work, pricing it, exploring venues for exposure, and of course, selling as well. There is much I constantly learn from the amazing women that make up the group. And we do not exhibit at Pine Moon exclusively. Many artists are represented by other galleries not only here in Colorado, but nation-wide.

Pine Moon Gallery

How is becoming a partner part of your creative growth?
Becoming a partner in one of the most beautiful galleries in town has been incredibly exciting and deeply humbling. The collective of 14 women that make up the group is uniquely supportive and super fun to be around. Everyone has a completely different history, creative style, point of departure, and approach to their work, which is really inspiring. Likewise, everyone shares in their struggles, setbacks, and moments of doubt which I believe is where the most value comes from this experience. I feel like I’ve landed in a context where it’s safe to do my work, take risks, ask dumb questions, and reach out for hugs if needed. Growth from this experience has definitely manifested in the type and amount of work that I’m producing, the people that I’m meeting, and in all the new things I’ve learned about the business of fine art.

“Undercurrents” by Paulina M Johnson

What do you see for the future of the space?
As the newest member of the gallery, one who has had a hard time ever caller herself an artist, I guess I’m still a bit like a deer in headlights. I’m just so happy to be here. I’m sure that with time my ambitions for the space, and the experience it provides for our community will grow. For now, I hope it continues to thrive and attract visitors from all over the world.

“Fish Creek” by Paulin M Johnson

How does exhibiting and making coalesce in your practice?
When I started playing with little pieces of paper three years ago (while at VCFA), I never imagined it would shift the entire course of my making practice (and my career, for that matter). It began as a ‘what if’ experiment that continues to evolve today. With each and every piece that I make, I walk away having more questions in my head than answers. Those questions fuel my curiosity and inform the decisions I make. These questions can be super practical, like ‘what if I use a different adhesive here next time?’ or, they can be a bit more existential like ‘what if I could make this pattern speak?’ Exhibiting this head monologue to the world, and its by-product, (AKA: my paper work) definitely brings a new dimension to the experience. It’s really cool to see people react, whether positively or negatively because it reaffirms my direction and inevitably incites growth. If someone loves my work, it feels nice and I walk away fired up to make something else. If someone questions or hates it, it forces me to ask hard questions and assess things from a different perspective.

“Last Cutting” by Paulina M Johnson

There is a very unique feeling to the ultimate goal however, which in the gallery world is to sell work. Of course, a financial gain is always great, but when someone sees themselves in a piece, so much in fact that they want it to be a part of their home, it’s no longer a piece being exhibited on a wall.

“Hibiscus” by Paulin M Johnson

It becomes part of an intimate narrative and a really cool point of connection, oftentimes between strangers (I don’t always get to meet those who buy my work). So this is where my making and exhibiting coalesce. I love capturing and sharing little moments with simple strips of paper that serve as both a vessel and a catalyst for memory and perhaps common life stories.

“Coast” by Paulina M Johnson

Really inspirational, Paulina — community involvement and entrepreneurship are part of the VCFA ethos. Thank you so much for being interviewed — we are really excited to see the evolution of your work and your gallery!

Stay tuned, dear readers—more “Huh” coming soon!