Oceanic Feeling

The Hand of Man

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I have felt extremely anxious about hanging these five illustrations; I’m not sure why. Perhaps I’m not feeling good about this work because I became sick right after starting, and got a little sidetracked when I was finally able to get back to it again.  The pieces are hanging, regardless, at RiverRead as of December 2nd – First Friday – through the end of the month.

Sadly, I received notice that RiverRead will permanently close their doors on January 31, 2017. Several reasons were cited for the closing, but I suspect Amazon is highest on the list. RiverRead has been kind to me; they have hosted my work twice. My first show at the bookstore was “Story Hats.”   I will miss the little shop greatly.

Here is the write-up:

Each of he five 12” x 18” watercolor illustrations in the series “The Hand of Man: Things Left Out” tells a surreal story imagined by visual artist Anni Johnson during a recent trip to Alaska. Anni handmade deckled paper to complement the drawings, and the images she created were rendered using photo reference material taken in Alaska with her iPhone. There are words from Emily Dickinson included in the illustrations to imbibe Anni’s visual stories with the quirky natural phenomena found in Dickinson’s poetry. The titles reveal the Dickinson poem used if one references Thomas H. Johnson’s edited collection “The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson”; however, the poems are handwritten, in their entirety, on the backside of each image. Of the work, Anni says: “In Alaska, viewers can begin to sense how small and insignificant they are while standing in the shadow of a towering rock cliff or sailing above the depths of Bering Sea, an eerie feeling of being connected to a vast endlessness can flood the senses. Freud likened this surreal experience to ‘an infantile lack of an ‘I’’: he could not make the leap with his friend French essayist Romain Rolland to call the ‘Oceanic Feeling’ they passionately debated an ‘article of faith.’ I think this connection to our environment is, too often, left out of human considerations in the name of progress at the expense of our precious natural resources. (This subject has been passionately and professionally broached in the National Geographic documentary “Before the Flood” featuring Leonardo DiCaprio.)  Perhaps this is because not enough decision-makers get out of their sterile offices. They don’t get out from behind their computers to spend time in nature, to try to reconnect with what can be called, per neuropsychologists, ‘primal consciousness,’ to glean certain ‘truths’ as scientist Carl Sagan explained: ‘The cosmos is with us. We are made of star stuff. We are a way for the universe to know itself.’ Reading Emily Dickinson, even though she never traveled far from her home in Amherst, M.A.,  I feel she would understand completely.”

As always, thank you! for reading.

Best – Anni

In An Abyss’s Face

Here’s the 3rd piece in my Alaska series. I’m giving each illustration a title from an Emily Dickinson poem. I liked letting the holes do their own thing, while making this piece of paper. I think it will look nice mounted on black mat board.


What mystery pervades a well!
That water lives so far –
A neighbor from another world
Residing in a jar

The grass does not appear afraid,
I often wonder he
Can stand so close and look so bold
At what is awe to me.

Related somehow they may be,
The sedge stands near the sea –
Where he is floorless
And does no timidity betray

But nature is a stranger yet:
The ones that cite her most
Have never passed her haunted house,
Nor simplified her ghost.

To pity those that know her not
Is helped by the regret
That those who know her, know her less
The nearer her they get.