M. Scott Johnson
New York sculptor M. Scott Johnson was born October 28, 1968 in Inkster, Michigan, a poor but proud, African American suburb of Detroit. Having always been fascinated with the natural world, Scott began his college education studying both geology and geography. Eventually, Johnson was introduced to cultural anthropology as a student with African-American anthropologist, Dr. Warren Perry. Perry was influential in helping Scott to become a participant in Operation Crossroads Africa, serving as a member of its first group to enter post-apartheid South Africa and Zimbabwe in 1994.
Scott’s education as a sculptor began in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. While there he studied traditional and contemporary stone sculpting under the tutelage of the local artists who occupied the endless alleyways of the city. Johnson’s greatest opportunity came when he was invited to apprentice (1996-1999) with master sculptor, national hero and elder statesman of Zimbabwe stone sculpture Nicholas Mukomberanwa (1940-2002). Under Mukomberanwa, Johnson explored more than just the techniques of sculpting, it became a period of cultural rediscovery.
In describing his experience, Scott says, “Mukomberawa helped me to develop a metaphysical relationship in my work, this helped me reevaluate my ties to the West’s linear imagination. His movement showed me how to become a conduit – rhythmic with my tools and creative intuition. My observations led me to communicate honestly with the visible and invisible around my sculpture”. Scott’s work lies between the crosshairs of visual art and cultural anthropology. Driven to comprehend new relationships between rhythm and line in the African Diaspora, Scott’s work has also been strongly influenced by African American Techno music, Ndyuka and Saramaka graphic art forms, Isamu Noguchi and Makonde sculpture .
As a sculptor, Johnson transforms his ancient medium with profound purity. The intricate weaving of organic shapes creates a dynamism that releases deep-seeded angst and passion. The blueprint to which Scott’s work adheres is derived from what he describes as Atavistic imagery. While the influence of Mukomberanwa’s artistic talents are evident in Scott’s work, demonstrated by the power of its expression, the highly stylized imagery is uniquely his own. Johnson’s work has been exhibited in galleries across the United States and internationally including the National Gallery of Zimbabwe, Harvard and Columbia University and The New York Botanical Gardens.
His sculptures are in numerous private and public collections, most notably the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and the Hampton University Museum where his seminal piece “The Judgment of Peter Norton”, which was featured in he exhibit “Two hundred Years of Art from the Hampton University Museum”. In 2005 Scott was awarded The Vicktor Lowenfeld sculpture prize presented by The Hampton University Museum for his work the Tao Of Physics. Since 2004 Johnson has held a visual arts teaching residency with The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem, New York.