Every year NOT REAL ART chooses six artists who push the boundaries of what’s possible in the art world. Those artists are awarded our annual grant for open-ended use. Established in 2019, the grant is designed to empower contemporary artists through financial backing and creative support. In today’s podcast episode, our host and founder Scott “Sourdough” Power sits down with 2022 NOT REAL ART grant winner Buena Johnson to discuss the artist’s philosophy on art and positivity.
Based in Los Angeles, Buena is a multidisciplinary artist and educator who counts Oprah Winfrey, Halle Berry, and Queen Latifah among her collectors. Her work has been showcased in the Smithsonian, The Getty Collection, and MOCA Los Angeles. Known for her sensitive portraiture and imaginative compositions, Buena promotes Black visibility in the arts using a combination of historical and spiritual imagery. “There wasn’t anyone that looked like me that was put in a positive light in art history,” Buena tells NOT REAL ART. “When I decided to do my own work, I had made a vow to myself that I would [put] Black and brown figures and people in my work, because we weren’t put in any positive light at all.”
In our chat with Buena, she shares her journey from commercial artist in Chicago to thriving fine artist in LA. She also offers insight into her creative practice by discussing the subjects and themes she’s drawn to: Black American history, Black music, and spirituality. “My aim is to promote advancement, to promote hope, to propel [wellbeing],” says Buena, who is an active member of her community and advocates for positive change as an artist and instructor. By visually retelling our past, Buena not only serves as a storyteller, she brings hope and acts as a catalyst for constructive change. “My work is timely,” she says. “If it’s a visual retelling of our past, hopefully, it can correct what is happening in our future.”
Tune in below for our compelling chat with grant winner Buena Johnson.