Learn A Conversation with Artist Kenneth Johnson
Kenneth Johnson is a contemporary Muscogee/Seminole jeweler and bronze sculptor living in Santa Fe. He transforms copper, silver, gold, platinum, and palladium into wearable art in his downtown Santa Fe studio. In July, as part of our Taste of Auberge series, Kenneth and Chef Pablo Peñalosa will collaborate to share a creative interpretation of two artful forms: food and art. We recently caught up with Kenneth to learn more about his work and get a sneak peek at what he and Chef Pablo are ‘cooking up’ for this very special event.
How did you get into this work? Did someone or something influence you?
I was a mechanical engineering student at the University of Oklahoma and moved to New Mexico and began. A friend showed me how to make jewelry and I eventually put all my effort into that and into art instead of the corporate world.
What’s your process before starting on a new piece?
I like to think about it and sense it on a few different levels. Sometimes spending time with the idea of a piece can allow it to resonate on an unexpected level. Many times I tune in to the person and think about something, some element of them. And I work to incorporate that detail into the piece I’m making for them.
Do you come from a generation or lineage of craftspeople?
I come from a heritage of people that are always resourceful. As far as art, I was around a lot of people who made arts and crafts and sold them on the side but always did something else for their living. When I moved to the Southwest and saw people making art for a living, I was inspired and dove in headfirst.
Is your work at all inspired by the landscape of New Mexico? If so, is there a place you find particularly inspiring?
I do enjoy putting landscape concepts in my work. For the last year and a half, I have been creating a layered pattern metal called Mokume Gane which uses 27 layers of copper, silver, gold and platinum. These metals take on different colors and patterns of the landscape around me. I also excel at incorporating Stamp work, which has many symbols such as Sawgrass from the Florida Everglades but also incorporating sun or wind symbols.
What are you most excited about with this partnership?
Meeting Chef Pablo was exciting because his world is food and my world is in metal and art and the parallels are incredible. Our cultures cross many paths and it’s a good weave. I’m excited to partner with him for this inaugural event because it allows both Chef Pablo and I to share our stories through our art and experience. This event will carry a special energy we want to share with everyone. I look forward to the evening.