Artist Statement + Bio
Statement for Somebody Save Me
During the summer of 2022, I experienced a severe depressive episode. I wondered if I would ever be able to function again, and by what power that would even be possible. As I lay in bed for days at a time, I was visited over and over again by the idea of guardian angels. When I was finally able to return to life, I began creating these figures.
All of my grandmothers kept cheap porcelain or ceramic figurines in their houses, many of which were angels or other mass-produced home decor with prayerful connotations. I chose inexpensive porcelain tiles for these collages as a nod to the working class art forms that adorned my grandmother’s homes and as an ode to female family members who have endured mental illness, substance abuse, and other difficulties before me, women on whose power I drew during my depression. The material also references my Nana Victoria, who made porcelain dolls.
However, these angels differ significantly from the Christian symbols from which they derive. Growing up in the church, I longed for god and admired spiritual principles, but I was bothered by the more contradictory and oppressive parts of the teachings. I think of these angels as genderless, agnostic alternatives to these traditional objects of inspiration, embodying the tension between divinity and willpower, sensuality and spirituality, destruction and creation. They are the guardian angels I have always wanted.
Jaydra Johnson (b. 1988 Springfield, Oregon) is an artist, writer, and educator based in Los Angeles and New York City. Working primarily in cut paper collage, Johnson’s artwork addresses the spirit, endurance amid crisis, the multiplicity of self, and generational change. By mixing high and low references, her works trouble prevailing notions of artistic value and beauty. Her eye is informed by zine and magazine culture, erotic photography, outsider art, and DIY working-class aesthetics.
Johnson earned a Master’s in Education from Lewis & Clark College and an MFA in Creative Writing from Hunter College, where she co-edited Solar journal. She is the recipient of the 2022-2023 Creatives Rebuild New York grant. Her written and visual work has appeared in Oxford American, Guernica, Gossamer, Atmos, and Sweet Tooth magazines, among others, and in the group show Patriot at O'Flaherty's Gallery (2022, NYC). Her guardian angels series was included in Prayer Meeting at Bed Stuy Arthouse (2023, Brooklyn), which she also curated.