Columbus Makes Art presents Lance Johnson on the power of the urban environment

Lance Johnson is a Columbus-based multimedia artist. Originally from the Bronx, Lance uses his experience of the dynamic urban landscape in his works to celebrate and center inspiration. Lance Johnson: POST NO ILLS at the MACpresented by PNC Arts Alive, will be on display at the Peggy R. McConnell Arts Center from January 20 to March 12.

Michelle: Who or what inspires your art?
Spear: I am inspired by the energy of urban environments. Movement, sounds, creativity and diversity inspire my work. I was born and raised in New York (the Bronx), and the spirit of the city prevails in my art.

I’ve always had an affinity for words

-Lance Johnson

Michelle: You often paint live with musical accompaniment. How does music impact your creation?
Spear: Like jazz, my work is mostly improvisation. Music is very present in my approach. I listen to hip hop and jazz especially when I paint. Music sets the mood for me. My painting flows with the rhythm.

Multimedia artist Lance Johnson.

Michelle: What words, phrases or quotes speak to you the most and why?
Spear: I studied journalism in college, so I’ve always had an affinity for words. Words have power and they can be used to inspire or harm. I always want to use inspiring words in my art. Words like PEACE, LOVE, BRILLIANCE, DREAM, WISDOM, BEAUTY. I want these words to resonate with viewers of my work.

Michelle: When did you discover your passion for artistic creation?
Spear: When I was 14, my mother showed me a documentary called I will make myself a world on the Harlem Renaissance. It had such a profound effect on me. At the time, I didn’t realize it, but a seed was planted in me. I wanted to be like those artists I saw, especially Romare Bearden, the amazing collage artist of the time. They were all collaborating and inspiring each other, and it seemed so cool and inspiring.

Michelle: Who are your favorite artists and why?
Spear: I have a few, but the two that come to mind are Jean-Michel Basquiat and a contemporary artist, José Parlá. I like Basquiat because he was fearless. He was prolific and he painted on everything from walls, windows and even refrigerator doors. The world was his canvas and that resonates with me. I love José Parlá’s abstract graffiti because of the improvisational nature of his process and his celebration and elevation of graffiti that inspired us both growing up.

Michelle: What’s the best thing about the art scene in Columbus right now?
Spear: The best thing for me is the collaborative spirit of the community. There’s so much talent and passion in this city, and I’m always looking to connect with other artists and find ways to collaborate.

Painting by Lance Johnson.  Photo by Jamie Caesar.
Painting by Lance Johnson. Photo by Jamie Caesar.

See Lance Johnson: POST NO ILLS at the MAC, presented by PNC Arts Alive, from January 20 to March 12 at Peggy R. McConnell Center for the Arts777 Evening Street in Worthington.

Columbus Makes Art Gifts is a bi-weekly column presented by the Greater Columbus Arts Council – supporting and advancing the artistic and cultural fabric of Columbus. The column is a project of the Art Makes Columbus campaign, telling the inspiring stories of the people and organizations that create Columbus art. Learn about local artists, organizations, public art and events at

Dora W. Clawson