NEUROLOGICALLY PRODUCED SYNESTHETIC FORMS AND COLOR. STUDIO VISIT WITH APRIL ZANNE JOHNSON

April Zanne Johnson is a graduate of Parsons School of Design/The New School for Social Research (1993) and received her M.F.A. at Montclair State University (2013). She resides in New Jersey in a rural northwest community where she keeps a studio. April is a synesthetic artist who incorporates perceptions from additional sensory experiences and weaves them into her practice.

Permanent collections can be seen in the Williamsburg Art Historical Center in Brooklyn, NYC and EVS in Fairfield, NJ . She has work held by several private collectors in Mexico City, New York City, New Mexico, Los Angeles, London and Australia. Recent honors include; Best of 2013, Saatchi Art, London U.K., curated by Rebecca Wilson, spotlighted in the series: One to Watch. April was awarded Herhusid Artist Residency in Iceland. She was the Dedalus Foundation Fellowship Nominee as well as the Nominee for Executive Women of New Jersey Graduate Merit Scholarship Award chosen by the Montclair State University graduate faculty (2012,2013). Inka Essenhigh selected April for the Atlantic Center for the Arts Artist Residency in 2015. In 2016, April was included as an IASAS Founding Member. Her work has been featured in numerous publications internationally.

AMM: How did you find your way into a creative life? Give us a glimpse of your artistic background? 

AZJ: I never have had interest in anything other than making art. I cannot imagine a life without creativity. I didn’t attend art in elementary school because I attended speech therapy. Maybe that was my earliest obsession with creative materials. Later, the school recommended I be placed in a senior art class my freshman year of high school. This was absolutely terrifying, but my teacher John Orinski encouraged me. When my high school ran out of courses for me to take at age 17, I attended a college summer painting program at Parsons School of Design. I decided that I would apply, and later graduated in 1993 from Parsons / The New School with a B.F.A in Illustration and a minor in Art Education. I had several jobs after I graduated, such as working in historic restoration of tile murals for a summer. I also worked briefly as a cut and paste person for a small advertising agency, but hated that job. The people I worked for screamed on the phone, and at each other, all day. I was a recreational/art therapist for a private juvenile detention center. Eventually, I ended up teaching art for many years in public school and loved working with the students. As a single mother working more than one job and commuting two hours a day, I had no interest in showing my work in public but always painted late at night and maintained a sketchbook. I would go to local bars and draw people from the corner of the room in the dark light. In the early 2000s, the State of New Jersey initiated a push for teachers to receive a master’s degree in their field of expertise to remain a “highly qualified teacher”. I did not see how a master’s degree was possible with my schedule, and I was not interested in an M.A. Eventually, I applied for and was offered a sabbatical to attend graduate school. In 2013 I received my M.F.A. I no longer work full time as an art educator. I teach as an adjunct one day a week for a local college. I love the interaction with other creative people; it keeps me grounded. It is easy to become reclusive in the studio.

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