The Cycles of Science by Raymond Jonson

Inspired to view the world in a new way, Raymond Jonson painted The Cycles of Science to share his highest ideals.

AIRED: November 20, 2021 | 0:26:38

Frederick Hammersley Foundation...

New Mexico PBS Great Southwestern Arts & Education

Endowment Fund at the Albuquerque Community Foundation

New Mexico Arts,

a division of the Department of Cultural Affairs,

and by the National Endowment for the Arts.

...and Viewers Like You.












>>Tiska Blankenship: Raymond Johnson would have been thrilled

that these murals are all installed

permanently together in this building.

Even to see just one, but to see all six of them

here together, the wow power is just amazing.

>>Tiska Blankenship: This is so grand.

It's like being in the cosmic dance.

It's so rhythmic the colors are part of that rhythm.


It really puts you right in the place with it.

>>Tiska Blankenship: The colors are amazing and

they're eccentric often, to convey even

more profound in-depth ideas and then in

this group of the murals, the six murals,

they're just kind of wondrously, overwhelmingly beautiful,

and you just want to sit there and kind of bask in

the warmth of the light of them.

This is so full of movement, it's dizzying.

The steam is pouring off and the pipes are pumping

and the future is being built right here.

>>Tiska Blankenship: When he created these works

he meant for the students to see them.

They were a project of the WPA and they were

installed in the first library on campus and later,

as that building became repurposed as the art building,

they were put in storage in the

gallery and we would exhibit a few of them at a time,

but nothing like what we have here this is marvelous.

The light does justice to his whole love of light

and what light could do and convey in terms of the

human spirit, the soul, the inner life that he was

seeking to have a way to define and present to people.

And I can imagine how he worked.

He was so methodical and very careful about how he

did things and put these ideas and yet kept them

abstract and it was kind of the end of his

reference to actual objects or landscape or anything.

It was after this series of murals he went on

into more the transcendental period.

>>Tiska Blankenship: He really believed in the importance of

the spiritual in art and that it would be universal.

He believed in the importance of just the

gesture of painting and it really didn't matter if you

or I ever saw them because the gesture was what mattered.

That intention was put out into the universe,

the world or whatever.

He said that to people.

He said, I painted it, that's the most important thing,

that I put this idea, this intention out into the world.

>>Tiska Blankenship: Johnson was first a painter and second an

educator and even in his painting he was always

So, the young minds that were students were very attractive,

special, and inspirational for him in his life

and it meant a lot to contribute to their inspiration

and their encouragement to study and take life seriously.

Take things seriously and do the work.

>>Tiska Blankenship: He was very interested in

making the world a better place,

letting his art be something that served the public,

served others.

>>Tiska Blankenship: I think it's really important

to have this kind of work,

this kind of statement, that's done so brilliantly,

that you almost can't miss what it's telling you.

What it's asking of you.

To go deep, to really think and think what the world

could be and what might be possible if we really took

the time to look and understand and relate to each other.


New England is dotted with the clapboard shelters of thought.

The Old Manse where Ralph Waldo Emerson

sussed out spirituality in nature.

Orchard House where Louisa May Alcott's father

Bronson treaded a Transcendentalist path.

And Fruitlands, Alcott's short-lived utopian commune.

"Throughout New England, particularly in Massachusetts,

there were a number of agrarian settlements

who lived communally and strived for

a better working society on a small scale."

It's the belief of Sarah Montross

curator of the exhibition Visionary New England at

the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum,

that those utopian notions linger here-taking root

today via a host of contemporary artists.

(Sarah this is gorgeous on the surface,

but tell me what's happening here? )

So we are standing amid an installation of photography

and a floor piece by the New Haven artist Kim Weston.

Kim designed this array of incredible

photographs activated by a memorial.

You're looking at thousands of red silk tobacco bundles.

And each of these signifies a life lost.

So the memorial is to women and children of

Native American descent who suffer much higher

degrees of violence, disappearance and death

Behind us are large scale photographs printed on

metal that Kim took at various powwows throughout

New England that Kim and her family are a part of.

the spirit energy of the ancestor or the deity who is

inhabited by the performers is expressed through Kim's work."

Here you'll find the traditional trappings of

Transcendentalism like Henry David Thoreau's pencils,

but also new sculpture by artist Sam Durant.

It stems from 2016, when the California-based

artist stationed himself in Concord at The Old Manse.

Durant built the outline of a home reflecting those

of Concord's first free Black men and women.

The installation became meeting place for public

conversation and is resurrected here along

with this sculpture of fused furniture-a desk

representing 18th century Black poet Phillis Wheatley

morphed with a recreation of Emerson's chair.

"Both of these two pieces of furniture that which

these writers, these creators, these world builders

would have sat and pen put pen to paper are now

being shown in dialog and in fact supporting one another."

In gallery upon gallery, artists in the exhibition

interrogate utopian ideals.

The vibrant paintings of the late artist Paul Laffoley

are like diagrams for transcendence, Montross says.

While artist Michael Madore's

envision a future world after climate change.

"Utopian thought emerges during particularly

And so I do think right now amid Covid,

amid different crises,

we are seeing a regeneration of utopian energy."

"The artists who I was interested, who I found

in our collection were invested in social progress."

Sam Adams is the curator of the companion show

Transcendental Modernism which presents artists

from the museum's collection who crafted

their own 20th century take on the theme.

"Overall, I would have to say they're darker.

the show opens with exiles and emigres

who are escaping Nazi Europe.

The development of mysticism in their art is some some

is different, but it's it um meets up with the same

strands from transcendentalist thinkers from the 19th century."

Adams says for some of the artists including poet

Gary Rickson, the spirituality, comes in the actual making.

"For him, painting this is and is a very charged experience

where he's channeling these words that have come to him."

For more than two hundred years,

America's thought leaders,

writers and artists have charted paths to utopia.

But as this exhibition reminds us,

none have made it there.

(What is Utopia?)

Oh, it's it's a great, great question and hard to answer.

I think Utopia is a concept, an ideal that is never achieved."


I am one of five.

We used to play under our house, these shotgun

houses; they are raised.

So we use to play archeologist, digging up

bottles and things like that.

I developed a love for antiques and rustic things

and all things New Orleans.

My mom collected a lot of antiques, a lot of rustic stuff

she liked What I try to do is paint about those things.

Playing under the house gave me an idea of how the

house was formed because I could see underneath.

So when I started painting them, as an adult,

I just painted from memory.

It is easy to understand them.

There are the artists who sees the culture

and who mimics the culture.

I am going to paint the guy playing a trumpet or

I am going to paint some crawfish or something like that.

That's fine, because that introduces people to the

culture and gives them something to take back.

But then, there is another artist that I am partial to.

This artist is born of the culture.

And, when he produces something,

it is from a place he is not trying to mimic.

He is creating the culture.

That's what I do.

My job is to take the culture and show what it is.

I am not mimicking.

I am giving birth to culture.

When people see my work, they recognize that.

People who are not artists experience the same things

that I experience when they look at the city; locals, right.

The difference is that I have the motor skills to

interpret my perceptions.

Even though someone might think of what Mardi Gras is;

I can paint the expression of it,

like there is this piece called "Throw me Something Mister."

This woman has her arms stretched out and she has

You can see the enthusiasm in her face.

She is Mardi Gras personified.

Now that's how everybody feels, but I can paint about it.

Most of my pieces were about the houses and the

neighborhood and things like that, but I am

gradually moving into painting people more and

then putting houses on their heads or umbrellas

on their heads or alligators or anything

that represents the culture here.

I have been painting a lot of women in sort of a

regal look centered around something having to do

with Mardi Gras or New Orleans.

Oftentimes I use my wife or my daughter as models.

I will take a picture of them with the right angle

and paint them in.

Sometimes it is my wife's eyes and my daughter's

face or vice versa, just to create these women,

typically something centered on Mardi Gras.

I enjoy that.

I've put my family in my work.

I have always done that.

I don't know what else I would paint.

For me, that's real life.

Lady Mardi Gras is my absolute favorite.

I use this image on all of my cards and advertising and all.

You can easily find her in the mall or something.

She would be the lovely lady that stands out.

When I painted this piece, I needed something to

intertwine her hair through the house to lock

the house on her head.

I added these birds.

Then I added the cats because I tend to add

something that doesn't belong because birds and

cats don't really get along to give it contrast.

Also, the black cat is mysterious as well.

It gives her sort of that mystery about her.

That Bayou St. John Bridge is actually called the

Magnolia Bridge, right.

One day this lady called me and said,

"My husband and I are retired.

One of our favorite things to do is to sit on the porch,

sip wine and watch people get married on the bridge."

That's mostly a pedestrian bridge.

She says, her husband mentioned one time he said

"Honey when I die, I would love for a band to

second-line across that bridge to celebrate my life."

She said, his birthday is coming and I want to give

him that gift before he dies.

Could you paint a scene of a band celebrating my

husband's life on the bridge?"

So, I did and I put them on the boat on the scene.

Also, my wife is in the center of that bridge.

I thought that was a sweet sentiment for her husband.

The house is in the scene.

It is the house that is closest to the bridge with

the picket fence around it.

Uptown Bound is one of my favorite ones because it

has all of my family's names in it.

On the left, if you look at the building, you will

see Stephanie, my wife.

The second one is Seth, my 20 year old.

He is the culinary artist in the family.

Then L.T.,

L.T. stands for little Terrance.

He's not so little.

He's 26.

He's a graphic artist.

And, then there is a sign that says Sydni, my daughter.

She's 17 and she is a vocal artist.

And, 524 on the street car is my wedding anniversary date.

That's the only one that has my entire family in it.

And, the streetcar is nice.

I felt like this pandemic was happening

and you saw all these women.

Eighty present of the people who are in the

medical industry, on the front line are women.

So a friend of mine suggested that I paint

Rosie the Riveter,

I thought it was a fantastic idea.

His wife is a nurse.

So I painted her and what I ended up doing was

donating about 5,000 of the posters to the hospitals

in New Orleans and some hospitals around the country.

The image went viral.

I really felt like I was contributing

There is no competition for the Jazz Fest Poster.

This one guy called and said, "I am the person

responsible for picking the artist for Jazz Festival,

and I would like for you to do the Jazz Festival poster.

"That was in 07.

Jazz Fest is the highest grossing festival in the world.

The Jazz Fest poster is the highest grossing

festival poster in the world.

So if you get it, of course it is a huge honor.

Your work goes all over the world.

If your poster does well; they call you again to do another

So, I have done five Jazz Fest posters so far.

That really put me on the map early on.

Most people think that is more of one thing, where

the artist creates it all.

But, it is not.

It is more of a collaboration between the

producer of it and the artist.

The most excitement I got was when my third poster did well.

The third one is one of Jazz Fest's best sellers;

the Trombone Shorty, the 2012.

That one; I like how it came out.

I like the enthusiasm that everyone got from it.

I enjoyed working on it.




So I think as an artist it's nice to have the

artist's touch from the beginning to end.

Instead of using a canvas to wrap it, I use a wooden

panel just because of the resin.

I have to keep it nice and level so that it doesn't

pull towards the center.

This one is 36 by 36.

Got my four sides.

Now I'm going to go frame it.

I'm Paola Gracey, I'm an artist and chemist

practicing chemist during the day.

And then at night it's when I start to paint and become alive.

The thicker the border, I love the way the paint looks draped

And so I place it to make sure I have a nice 45

degree angle before I add the nails to it to reinforce it.

So now I'm gonna add the plywood to the top.

And this of course will be my background.

Let me switch out to this staple gun.


So I paint the background, and then I'll apply the glitter.

And then, uh, I'll just have a layers of resin.

And this is what the pieces actually looked

like before I applied the acrylics.

I don't use the typical, you know my easel is the ground.

Are you mixing chemicals into some of the paints?


So I'll add like a pouring medium to it.

Yeah, it's like an experiment for me.

I started working with this technique of painting back in

I have noticed over the years it's gotten better

and a lot of it has to do with my documentation.

So I just like I would in the laboratory, I document

in my lab notebook, all my materials, you know,

all my observations and then I use that

information to work on the next piece.

The colors I use mostly are like jewel tones and blues.

And then I guess a lot of it, uh, the colors that I

use are influenced by science and, and growing

up in south Florida, the colorful atmosphere.

And, and so I like to throw in a shrill orange

or yellow neon yellow into the piece.

They just speak to me in different ways.

And I don't know that people understand it is just,

you know, how they speak to me is how I

choose what color we'll go next to the other.

I don't ever let the canvas kind of stop.

this is where I left it up and let gravity do its thing.

There we go.

What do you think?

You see how some start to really take off

and then others are, it's kind of like the race of the drips,

so I try to control it, but at the same time

it's more of an organic flow to it and so

I'll just assist them and kind of give them momentum.

All right, Gino, we can bring it down now.

All right.

And that's the end.

If I liked the way it is, I bring it back down.

I have to leave it to dry for a couple of days and that's it.

Both of my grandmothers were artists and so I was

always exposed to that.

When I was studying, doing my undergraduate in chemistry,

I always took a painting class to help de-stress.

And there is when I started to merge the

science and the art, when I was taking a

biochemistry class, whatever I was studying,

I would incorporate into the paintings.

A piece that I just did live today was,

the Kinetic Energy series.

I love looking at images from the Hubble telescope.

You know, the amount of kinetic energy out there in outer space.

We don't know, you know, much the way that I like

to exhibit it is where it looks like it's going against gravity.

So it kind of confuses people.

They think I throw it.

And so I kinda like that, you know, unknown and that mystical

aspect of how did she get the paint to do what it did.

So this piece is from the spectrum series.

When you look at, um, certain chemicals under

the microscope, a lot of them have that

holographic effect and it's beautiful.

I wanted to try to find a glitter that would

represent that when I'm in the laboratory analyzing

different substances, we use,

you know, liquor chromatography.

And so these are what my results look like.

At the end of the day.

I've had several people ask me, well, why don't

you cover the acrylic on the top with the resin?

And my answer to them is why I like the texture,

because if I were to cover it with, you know, the

resin and you lose that effect of the mat against

the highest sheen, it just adds like this,

you know, depth to it.

And then just the glitter.

When you walk past it, the piece becomes alive.

Especially when you have the right

lighting really demands your attention

It's so much fun to work with.


New Mexico PBS dot org and look for COLORES under

What We Do and Local Productions.



Funding for COLORES was provided in part by:

Frederick Hammersley Foundation...

New Mexico PBS Great Southwestern Arts & Education

Endowment Fund at the Albuquerque Community Foundation

New Mexico Arts,

a division of the Department of Cultural Affairs,

and by the National Endowment for the Arts.

...and Viewers Like You.



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