Art & Design

@johannagoodman is Reshaping Women’s Place in Art

Art & Design

@johannagoodman is Reshaping Women’s Place in Art


Every Friday, BULLETT’s introducing our favorite Instagram profiles and getting to know the people behind the posts.

Each of Johanna Goodman’s imaginary beings inhabits a world of its own. With found portraits, illustrations, and her own landscape photographs, the artist creates composited characters that represent political movements, and the corners of her own psyche. Though she feels like her collage work allows her to get away with playing with paper dolls, the bulbous costumes she makes fill a big hole in the way women are represented in art. The 47-year-old’s work forces us to see women for the textures, colors, and images that make up their personalities––even if those personalities are made up by Goodman herself.

With layers of ornate detail, Goodman’s collaged costumes are her answer to fashion and media made for the male gaze. The bodies of her imaginary beings aren’t intentionally obscured, but they’re not the focus––and that’s her subtle protest. By pasting heads from daguerreotypes onto torsos made up of modern subway cars, or the moon, the New York based artist forces her viewers to ask whether our great grandmothers would be much different from us had they lived in the time we do. To Goodman, the answer doesn’t really matter. Her work is all about capturing the right mood for the portraits she draws from, and leaving the rest up for interpretation.

Name: Johanna Goodman
Instagram: @johannagoodman
Occupation: Fine Artist
Favorite Profiles to Follow: @rodger.stevens, @richardmcguirehere, @duroolowu, @look_at_this_pusssy, @thriftstoreart, @amysedaris, @supermakeit

Can you tell me a little bit about your ongoing series, “The Catalogue of Imaginary Beings?”
I’ve created a world of monumental women, and some men, that I envision as a sort of Audubon catalogue of these giant illustrated plates scientifically exploring these beings. There’s not really any in-depth narrative, it’s more just my idea of an imaginary world.


What drew you to collage as a medium?
I think it’s the element of not having incredible control, and allowing the medium to guide you, depending on what you find. I’ve done a lot of portrait work, I used to do a lot of painting and drawing, and then I evolved into collage. And this series became a completely different approach to portrait work; not doing faces, but describing these beings by the rest of them––their bodies made up of all kinds of things and their environments.

What inspires the outfits?
They sort of evolve by themselves. Sometimes I set out with an idea of what I want to do, but a lot of the time I just let the piece speak to me as I go and let it show me what needs to be added to it. They all sort of become dream outfits for me.

Do you aim to make any commentary about the way women’s bodies are portrayed in art?
I love making things that are the opposite of what you see in fashion. It’s not that I necessarily make an effort to obscure anything, it’s more about adornment. The male gaze imagery that you see everywhere is just about being hot, and these are not for that purpose––they’re about being expressive and descriptive of the subject, or just about things. There’s so much more space for discussion of everything in these women, because it is them in their bodies, but it’s not really about their anatomy. It’s the body as a canvas for expression.


Did you initially set out to show that humanistic individuality in your work?
I didn’t, but now when I look at the body of work I feel like it’s undeniable that when you look at them you have to contend with them. They are forces to be reckoned with, to some degree. I still have them a lot of the times in fashion poses––there are a lot of pointy shoes and all, but I really enjoy changing them and morphing them into something different from how you’d normally see them.

What kinds of photos are you drawn to?
There are so many great daguerreotypes where everyone is really stiff and unhappy looking, and once you cut them out and give them a new hairdo, and you put them in these crazy environments, their expression looks different. As you’re working with someone, and you’re looking at them and they’re looking back at you, you start to feel some kind of empathy and some kind of idea of who they are. You get this human connection as you work and you feel like you have to do right by them. You feel a responsibility to give them some kind of dignity.

What do want people to take away from your work?
I really love that they mean such different things to different people. I love the conversation between the viewer and the piece. I don’t want to impart too much intention or meaning on them myself. Even though they’re bizarre and don’t say anything specific, it’s been the most connective experience I’ve had making artwork. Somehow the connection I have with my own work has translated.