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The Kennedy Museum of Art’s photo exhibition highlighting Van Gogh’s influence opens September 24

The Kennedy Museum of Art’s photo exhibition highlighting Van Gogh’s influence opens September 24
Arles Bedroom in Boxmeer, 2019. Photo by Pat Lanza. A recreation of the Arles Bedroom from the van Gogh painting in the Hotel Riche in Boxmeer, 2019.

Kennedy Museum of Art’s upcoming exhibition presents images by two award-winning photographers, Lynn Johnson and Patricia Lanza. Johnson is a 2004 graduate from the Scripps College of Communication’s School of Visual Communication whose clients include National Geographic Magazine, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and LIFE magazine to name a few. Lanza’s career as a photographer, photo curator, educator and journalist included eight years as a National Geographic contract photographer which has taken her to more than 53 countries on assignment.  She was the Director of Exhibitions for the Annenberg Space for Photography in Los Angeles from 2009 to 2017 and produced 21 exhibitions including the award winning exhibition of the year in 2011, which included the Academy award nomination for accompanying short film, Beauty Culture. She is a regular contributor to The Eye of Photography.

The exhibition, titled The Van Gogh Affect, addresses the profound and ever-present influence on contemporary perceptions of the world by the artist Vincent van Gogh, the Dutch post-Impressionist master painter who died penniless and alone in1890 at the age of 37.

The exhibition includes work that simultaneously contemplates and reaffirms van Gogh’s resounding posthumous influence over art and culture since the 19th century. Johnson’s and Lanza’s images offer evocative insight into the artists’ uniquely sensitive lived experience of place and light.

“It’s a pleasure to present this exhibition that highlights what museums do best — to feature inspiring pieces that, when shown together, offer context and fresh insights,” says museum Director Edward Pauley. “This is the first time the Kennedy has hosted a show by these two fine photographers. Working in conjunction with Ohio University Libraries, we are particularly honored to celebrate the creative work of OHIO alum Lynn Johnson.”

Some images in the exhibition are selections from a story in National Geographic called Lullaby in Color, which was published 25 years ago and featured images by Johnson. She has called these images “a meditation on why we, as humans, need creativity in our core — why the art spirit is a life force that can fuel both wonder and addiction,” and they inspired other images created for The Van Gogh Affect.

For Johnson, going back to review the images from Lullaby in Color provided a unique revelation.

“I was surprised how the images still held the power of the original intent, which was to photograph in a timeless style so the reader could feel what van Gogh might have experienced as he wandered,” Johnson says.


Field of sunflowers.
Photo by Lynn Johnson. Sunflower fields drew van Gogh to Provence in South of France, as he sought colors to match the Japanese prints he admired. 

Recent images created for the exhibition by both Johnson and Lanza were produced during a joint creative pilgrimage through France and The Netherlands from 2018 to 2019. Working in collaboration with the Saint-Paul Asylum in Saint-Rémy, France, Johnson and Lanza were granted special access in their exploration of the still-functioning sanitarium and the village of Auvers-sur-Oise.

Lanza’s images reflect the colorful interior and exterior spaces of that exploration

"My work focused on van Gogh’s French experience: his color palette changed, it became more vibrant influenced by the light and the landscape," Lanza says.

Johnson’s recent work includes large-scale black-and-white portraits of the women who continue to create art in the very rooms and gardens that inspired van Gogh.

”It was powerful to step back into the world of the asylum and the art atelier—to get to know the women who embody the spirit of van Gogh as both artists and those struggling with mental imbalance.”

The exhibition opens with a reception on Friday, September 24, 2021, from 6:30 to 8 PM and ends March 27, 2022. Johnson and Lanza will present an opening night talk about the exhibition that evening at the Kennedy Museum of Art from 5:30 PM to 6:30 PM. Seating is limited and masks are required. Reservations are encouraged and can be made online here.

Kennedy Museum of Art is free and open to the public. Gallery hours are Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM, Thursdays from 10:00 AM to 8:00 PM and Saturdays and Sundays from 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM. Masks are required regardless of vaccination status as part of Ohio University’s COVID protocol.