Soup's up! Meet Johanna C. Nelson!
The Caldo Collective is thrilled to bring you another fantastic interview with one of the artists who will be presenting at Frijol Feasts this Sunday! Johanna C. Nelson is committed to the oath she feels every artist must make to themselves at the start of their career: to commit to fearlessness and constant growth and renewal. Johanna comes to the table from a life time of creating, in every and all disciplines. For five years, she took on the challenge of starting her own collective in Alpine, TX that offered artists any kind of support that was possible whether it was exhibition space or professional development. She also ran a business with a fellow artist that allowed her to explore the commercial art realm by moving her prints throughout Texas. She is committed to not only being an artist, but also to helping other artists. Sit back, read and enjoy... and make sure to come meet Johanna in person this Sunday! She'll be sharing "Salsa Stories" with us! Caldo Collective: What is your background as an artist? What drives you? Johanna C Nelson: I have always loved to create and build anything and everything- painting, sculpture, writing, music, film, acting, I’ve tried it all and love it all. I remember being pushed by the adults in my life early on to explore my imagination and creativity as I was growing up- my grandmother and Dad, especially. That drive and inquisitive habit have stuck with me my entire life. I am driven to explore an idea further, ask more questions, push the boundaries and find new ways to express or explain. Creation is my drive, if I’ve not creating, I feel stuck in motion or as if I’m not taking opportunity of being alive. I feel like it’s an obligation. Maybe I feel propelled to create because it’s some weird female evolutionary coding…of which I don’t mind, it’s good motivation. My friend and I started a small business when I was around 20 where we sold prints of my art work all over Texas. The art was pretty commercial and in the ‘inspirational’ genre, but it gave me a taste of the commercial side of art. My undergraduate degree is in Industrial Technology and Design where I got to explore my love of furniture building and drafting; I also minored in Art. While I was in undergraduate school, I started a small art collective and gallery in Alpine, Texas which ran for around 5 years. It was a space very similar to the Glasbox. We hosted art shows and provided any type of support for artists in the area that we could. I immersed myself in painting at the time. I got my business graduate degree at UTEP. Since then, I’ve assisted artists with their business skills through workshops and artist organizations and nonprofits. I continue to paint, write, sing and create and will until my time is up here. CC: Each artist who is presenting their ideas at this feast comes to the table with ideas that have very measurable impact on the community at ground level. What do you find most inspiring about this city/this community? JCN: This community is so resilient, much like its surrounding desert environment. This trait is inspirational to me because it means people are tough and creative in a practical way, they’re able to withstand a lot and sobrevivir. CC: Is there potential for artists to grow and be challenged here? How and in what way? JCN: Of course! Challenges are what create a person and make them better. As an artist, you have to kind of make an oath at the beginning that you’re committed to fearlessness and constant growth and renewal. El Paso is having an emergence of new energy and perspectives, it’s the perfect setting for artists who can be a part of the vision and help to reshape the community’s direction. The artists can help the community grow and be its guide. CC: What support have you received for your work in El Paso? What support would you like to have access to as an artist? JCN: I have always received great support for any of the ideas I have come up with in El Paso. However, I think there could always be more affordable studio spaces, artist collectives and places to show artwork. However, the crucial element –you have to have a community that will participate and patronize the arts, as well. CC: How would you compare the climate for artists in El Paso with that of other cities? What makes El Paso's art community unique? How can it be strengthened? JCN: El Paso seems like its efforts are just taking off. Artists are getting connected, events are happening more frequently, there’s more support, things are picking up steam. Obviously there are other communities where you can find more established paths and organization, but they’ve been around longer or have more resources. You can’t change things overnight. The climate for artists can be strengthened by continuing efforts to have more community based art opportunities. Caldo Collective, Creative Kids, La Fe, Glasbox, EPCC, El Paso Museums and Cultural Affairs Department and Farmers’ Market, Tocando, etc….there are so many who are dedicated to the mission of strengthening the connections that the community makes with art and widening the circle; they’re working so hard! El Paso needs the organizations to continue and they need the community’s help and support. CC: What is the role of art in a community? In society? JCN: The role of art is to foster creativity and provide channels of expression, insight and reflection. In a community and in a society- you need to be able to step back from the minutia and see the big picture; art lets you do this. Art is a process- it’s creative and lets people delve deeper into a subject and explore. You need people to be the innovators, you need people to challenge ideas, and to see things differently, not to be stagnant, otherwise progress starts going backward. CC: How could artistic practices address the cultural identity and needs of this community? JCN: Art can bust issues or topics wide open- so everyone can see. It allows a means for people to navigate issues such as cultural identity or the needs of a community. It provides a voice and platform for people to peer into and wonder and think about things. Art can be the spark that sets something aflame- change or a new perspective. CC: How does/could your artistic practice engage the community? Why is that engagement important? JCN: This is a good question. I don’t think I see the point of creating art that no one would see. Or if I were to do so, I would feel kind of selfish. It makes me think of the silly question, “If a tree falls in the forest, does is make a noise if no one can hear it”. Is art art if no one sees it? Probably, but I think so much of art is about creating an experience for people. You’re providing an open door for them to step into. The most fun part of art is watching people react or hearing their perspective on your creation (of which many times is nothing what the artist had in mind). I think I engage the public and community, because the community and my environment and my experience are what inspire me in the first place. My art completes a cycle- I’m inspired by the people in my community, so I give back to them, they have an experience and so on.9.) What role does the community have in the production/creation/inception/initiation/activation (choose which words you feel best applies) of art? Everything. I am inspired by my environment. Constantly. The stories, the people, the visuals…. CC: As an artist, how best can a community to support its artists? JCN: Showing up to events like Frijol Feasts, watching live music, going to see the opera, volunteering at Creative Kids or Tocando, teaching the kids and community art skills, donating to Glasbox, buying art from artisans, watching a play at the community theater…and more stuff like that.