*Micah Johnson, a former second baseman and outfielder for the White Sox, Dodgers, Braves and Rays, has indulged in his longtime passion and is now a professional artist of critically acclaimed and highly sought-after fine art paintings.
His latest work, which opened at Art Angels over the summer, was inspired by an overheard question posed by his nephew: “Mom, can astronauts be Black?”
Per MLB.com’s Michael Clair:
Many of his paintings feature real subjects wearing an astronaut’s helmet, while they paint or draw or learn the cello or simply play hopscotch. The helmet represents the dreams Black kids have and the opportunities that are hopefully open to them. He uses colors and images that children can relate to. He wants Black children to see themselves in a fine art world that is historically dominated by white artists and subjects.
“My whole mission is to inspire children,” Johnson told MLB.com. “But I try to have that looseness to it. And that’s just how I am. I work a lot with just my hands. Sometimes I don’t even have a paintbrush in my studio. I try to do these really bold lines and have that perfect blend of whitespace and also color. That’s how I’d define my style now.”
“If I try to really, really focus on the eyes, make the viewer feel this connection — and if they feel that connection — then maybe it will change their perspective on something,” Johnson said.
“In the beginning, it was all inspired by my nephews because I just wanted to inspire them. And that’s how my approach is — I tried to focus on inspiring one person,” Johnson said. “So, a lot of my subjects are real subjects. And I think that’s a message for everybody else — just focus on impacting one person and you’ll really impact the world. So, for me, it’s my nephews, and they’re young, and maybe when they grow up, and they start looking at this, maybe they’ll feel inspired.”
The theme is present in his most recent work, “sä-v(ə-)rən-tē” (pronounced sovereignty), but the presentation is drastically different from anything Johnson has done before.
This piece is a digital artwork available to view on Apple TV or on a billboard at 901 W. Olympic Blvd. in Los Angeles from Dec. 7 through Jan. 10. It features two young children (Jacque, 8, and Rayden, 7), who have experienced tragedy in their lives staring at a closed door in a field, with an astronaut standing on the other side.
Unlike a painting, viewers can watch “sä-v(ə-)rən-tē” change in real time. The light shifts from day to night and with each passing year, the door will swing open a little wider, giving Jacque and Rayden a wider glimpse at the astronaut who awaits them on the other side of the door. A QR code connected to a bitcoin wallet also appears on the children’s birthdays, allowing viewers to donate directly to them.
Watch a trailer for sä-v(ə-)rən-tē below:
Watch a July 2020, CBS Los Angeles report on Johnson below: