BY MEREDITH WATHNE
MSUM studio art senior Courtney Johnson made her national debut, as two photographs from her series “Foliage Feast,” were accepted into the “Reflections of Autumn” juried exhibition in Romeo, Mich.
Emphasizing in photography with a minor in business management, Johnson is making a name for herself in the photography world at a young age, even though she didn’t choose the career path until late into high school. Johnson said she was talking to a friend one day and asked, “Can you go to college for something you know nothing about?”
Johnson found inspiration for “Foliage Feast” during the fall 2012 while camping with her fiancé in Itasca State Park.
“I was originally going to work on commercial art,” Johnson said. “ … At the time the maple leaves were just starting to turn. I was walking around gathering them because I like the colors, and I was looking at them and how intricate and delicate they are. I was mainly drawn by the color, and the detail really pulled me in.”
While enrolled in upper-level photography courses, students are required to submit to work into juried shows. So, in an attempt to get her name out, Johnson continued to submit her work to both local and national shows after filling class requirements.
Johnson presented three photos from “Foliage Feast” to a juror, and two, “Red Sweep,” and “Soft,” were accepted into “Reflections of Autumn,” with “Red Sweep” receiving second-place honors. She works in large scale, so the images displayed were 2 by 2 feet.
“I like finding and exposing details and making them large, so people can really see them,” Johnson said. “Details and colors are really influential when I am looking at a project.”
“Reflections of Autumn” ran from Sept. 27 to Nov. 1, and it wasn’t until there were only a few days left
of the show that Johnson learned her pieces had been accepted and given awards.
“I would have loved to go if I had known my photos were in the show,” she said.
Johnson has a strong passion for the fall foliage, and the series is something she would like to continue throughout her career.
“Through this, it has been a confidence boost for me,” she said. “I’ve started working into emerging artists grants, and this is really good for me to say ‘I got into this show and I placed, so I’m worth your time.’”
Johnson’s artistic inspiration steams from her childhood on the farm. There were many farm animals around, and she was always outside.
“I was outdoors a lot as a child, and that’s something that’s never really gone away. I’ve always enjoyed being outdoors, and photography has allowed me to really focus in on details that not everyone sees.”
Now, as Johnson prepares for the senior BFA show on Thursday, she is looking toward what the future holds in her photography career.
“I would like to work for myself,” Johnson said. “Whether that be I have a portraiture business, I open my own gallery with my own work or if I sell my work. I grew up in a family of entrepreneurs, so that’s something that I’m interested in.”
Johnson, as well as other art students, is featured in the BFA Exhibition #2 that opened yesterday and runs through Dec. 18. Students and community members are invited to attend the exhibit reception from 4 to 6 p.m. on Thursday in the Rolland Dille Center for the Arts Gallery to meet the artists and see their work.
“This was a really great way for me to get my foot in the door,” she said. “It really gave me a lot of experience.”