Conversation with the Artist: Johanna Burton
I had the chance to sit with artist Johanna Burton at the opening of her show “Look Pretty, Be Helpful”. The show ran from November 4 to December 1 at Lot No. 6 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The show featured a variety of textiles from vintage dish cloths and aprons that have been embellished by hand by Johanna Burton.
The title of the show, “Look Pretty Be Helpful” was a piece of advice Burton received from her grandmother when she was sixteen, “I found to be ridiculously useful whenever you don’t know what to do: Look Pretty Be Helpful.” Burton was interested in creating something that also served a purpose but was still art. Also a painter, Burton would create paintings and watch them sit on the wall. Her collection of embroidered pieces is decorative, but also has an obvious tint of functionality.
Taking a look at the pieces, they are unified by the images of the female body in various poses, doing handiwork and even dancing. When asked about where the inspiration came from, Burton laughingly replied that “In the first grade, I started drawing naked ladies. My teacher was disturbed.” Burton’s doodles eventually turned into an interest in printmaking. Burton wanted to make the art more readable. The tradition of handiwork is that it can be done wherever and that spirit translated into Burton’s work. She could do the sewing anywhere, even while sitting in bed watching a movie.
Each of the ladies have a hand-crafted tag attached to the piece containing a girl’s name. I asked Burton about the names: “About a week ago, I hung them on a laundry line. I sat down to look at them to see if I had enough for a show. The names just kind of hit me and I wrote them down and realized there were all grandma names.” The unique names give each girl a personality and story. The aprons and towels for the basis of the work were found in various garage sales and antique stores.
When asked what project was next for Burton she shrugged and looked the creations hanging from the ceiling. It is hard to tell what will come next for the talented artist with a unique vision on mixing mediums. For more information on the show or prices on the pieces contact Lot No. 6. “Like” Lot 6 on Facebook or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.