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Collage Crush: Intro’ing Johanna Goodman’s Brilliant “Imaginary Beings”

The Catalogue of Imaginary Beings, Plate No.42 by Johanna Goodman
10"x8" ($24) | 14"x11" ($60) | 20"x16" ($240) | 30"x24" ($1200) | 40"x30" ($2400)

The Catalogue of Imaginary Beings, Plate No.199 by Johanna Goodman
10"x8" ($24) | 14"x11" ($60) | 20"x16" ($240) | 30"x24" ($1200) | 40"x30" ($2400)

We’re bad at moderation, especially when it comes art collecting, so clearly there was no narrowing it down where today’s artist debut was concerned. But luckily our lack of self-control is your windfall: you can take home two new enigmatic editions from NY-based artist Johanna Goodman.

If you’re a New Yorker, you might have spotted her work gracing the station walls along your subway commute—the MTA is a proud patron of Goodman’s captivating, charismatic digital collages. Her Subway Muses poster is a riff on the same themes present in the body of work from which we plucked today’s double edition release: The Catalogue of Imaginary Beings. Goodman began work on this ongoing series in 2015, with twenty years of portraiture and collage experience under her belt. She’s since produced over 200 plates, each with its own flavor, but all of which fall at the intersection of identity exploration and ideation.

Her recipe calls for a touch of magical realism and a splash of surrealism. The result is at once familiar and fantastic. The details, settings, and central figures are brought together in part through an elemental understanding of totems, idols, talismans and other cultural artifacts that carry symbolic weight—those we may turn to as a means of arriving at spiritual sustenance. Emerging from a mix of portraiture and collage, her characters represent what we’ve come to think of as different sorts of deities, or perhaps personified essences, the embodiment of some ephemeral notion or experience that captured this artist’s curiosity.

The Catalogue of Imaginary Beings, Plate No.42  | The Catalogue of Imaginary Beings, Plate No.199 by Johanna Goodman

Unafraid of venturing into the opaque, Goodman takes on vast, complex concepts with a whimsical air, seemingly interested in providing possibilities in lieu of answers (because where’s the fun in that sort of finality). In particular, her pieces tinker with the idea of individuality. Today’s two editions piqued our attention in part for their provocative contradictions. The figure in Plate No.42 wears a bell jar-shaped collage of landscapes, swirling with soothing natural hues. In the background, a majestic mountain view gives her a noble countenance. Her tight curls, sharp red heels, and crossed posture are an odd fit with the earthen aspects, but they also underscore her stateliness.

Plate No.199 is a play of hard and soft, glam and grit, juxtaposing visual cues of traditional femininity—lush curves, polished nails, pinks and purples, ballet slippers en pointe—with the cityscape and grimy subway platform. (Here’s a little Goodman inception: you can spot her Subway Muses poster in the background of this image!) What better way of illustrating the delightful incongruities of personhood? All of this is to say, when it comes to Goodman’s art we choose to be charmed. Restraint is overrated anyway.

With art for everyone,
Jen Bekman + Team 20x200