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Art & Life with Kelly Johnson

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kelly Johnson.

Kelly, please kick things off for us by telling us about yourself and your journey so far.
While I have always been drawn to collecting and creating, and prioritized a visually-oriented way of moving through the world at an early age, my path to the arts and curating was through an interest in fashion design. After a soccer injury in high school, I was looking for activities that kept my attention at a slower pace. I poured over fashion magazines as a teen, fascinated in particular by more avant-garde designs and photo shoots, and how the body was used as a canvas to convey textures, lines, space, and evoke emotions. 

I tried my hand at making a few dresses and bags, with mixed success, but this work inspired me to take a drawing and art history class when I entered college. The drawing class was insightful but I found I still did not have the patience to faithfully or creatively produce what I saw, meanwhile, my art history classes provided a time travel-like experience through centuries of creative expression across the world. I became very interested in feminist art and performance and decided to pursue an MFA in Curatorial Practice at MICA in Baltimore to learn more about collaborating with artists to create exhibitions and events.

Can you give our readers some background on your art? 
My art is curating—people, objects, ideas, spaces, and experiences. I do this at the Rothko Chapel as the Volunteer and Program Coordinator as well as in my own personal practice as an independent curator and writer. 

I am drawn to art and experiences that explore what it means to be human, in a physical body, on this earth. In particular, I am drawn to making connections between the body, the environment, and spiritual experience including exploring human relationships to space, geology, ritual and magic, body parts and functions, labor, and larger intersectional, queer issues. I believe in creating temporary and long-term communities through events, exhibitions, and writing, bringing embodied intersectionality to each of my projects to counteract the disembodied, violent culture we live in.

What would you recommend to an artist new to the city, or to art, in terms of meeting and connecting with other artists and creatives? 
Show up. Get out to openings AND visit exhibition spaces during less busy times – while you’re there, be sure to ask questions of artists, curators, and organizers/staffers. People like to talk about the work – how the artist made it, why they made it, what they think of it. And reach out to artists’ whose work you vibe with and arrange a studio visit. Then, invite them to your studio or show them documentation of your work if you don’t have a dedicated space. Creating a community of supporters is key! It’s all about maintaining an authentic presence and meaningful connections.

What’s the best way for someone to check out your work and provide support? 
Documentation of past curated exhibitions, sketches of future shows, and selections of writings are on my website. 

I am currently brainstorming an exhibition to be produced in zine or gallery form on teeth—focusing on the physical and socioeconomic realities of these tiny tools in our mouths. I am also a contributing writer to The Houston Review, a community-driven, collaborative online platform providing critical coverage of artists and exhibitions in Houston. You can see my latest review and others’ at

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Runaway Productions, Tere Garcia, Xiaotian Yang, Gloria Azucena

Getting in touch: VoyageHouston is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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