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At home, however, Johnson has the luxury of collaborating only with herself. After a series of apartments throughout the city (everywhere from East Williamsburg to Midwood to Soho) she's landed in Clinton Hill again. There she lives the creative professional dream of having a studio that does not double as her living or bedroom. Her decorating ethos involves keeping herself constantly visually inspired and creating small narratives with the artwork she's collected over the years. “So often I'm taking a lot of disparate things, like music, lyrics and imagery and figuring out how I can make some kind of narrative arc with it. So it's nice to have that spill out into the space.”
Of course there are plenty of concert posters around the apartment too, which remind Johnson of how far she's come in only a decade. She's recently finished up work with St. Vincent, one of the rare but prized opportunities she has had to work with a woman performer. It was also one of the only times her technology was limited almost exclusively to lights, though that didn't stop Johnson from thinking big. The requests she posed to her lighting designer, Ben Stanton, required lots of creative leaps. “Can you make the lights look like the Rockettes? Ok, now I want the lights to look like an Elizabethan headdress.” Johnson showed me a rubric in which she had assigned each song a set of images, patterns and colors to dictate the lighting movements.
“I would love to work with more female artists,” she said, citing the legendary Siouxsie Sioux as a dream artist. In past collaborations with women she's had the opportunity to come at a project from a different angle, with a whimsy and softness that is evident in her apartment. While working with the Japanese pop star, Chocolat, Johnson says they were just “giggling the whole time.”
“But my other fantasy is doing visuals for Nine Inch Nails or White Zombie,” she admitted, wide-eyed and giddy, “White Zombie would be awesome!” •