Bruce Johnson (1945 - 2014)
Was a creator and collector of many types of art. He earned a BFA at the University of Hawaii and obtained a Masters Degree from the California College of Arts and Crafts Oakland. He also taught for several years at Santa Rosa Junior College in California and part time at the University of Hawaii and the Honolulu Academy of Art.
Throughout the years, his career as an artist explored many different types of visual art (i.e. photography and paintings). But making a living on his art was tough. He sometimes had to work as an extra and actor to support himself. Notably the controversial Under The Rainbow. Most of Johnsons art, however, had little to do with dwarf themes. During his generative period of his life, coming to terms with his body became a recurrent preoccupation for Johnson. He began to wonder about the meaning of being a dwarf in different societies, especially in Western Cultures. In the course of his investigation, he collected many representations of dwarfs in art, particularly those of twentieth century photographers. He perused these images, hoping to one day find a purpose for them.
He created a photo series in the early 1970s when he posed himself in various ways against a gridded wall. He was inspired by the work of Eadweard Muybridge (1830-1904). Later on in 1998 he revisited that photo series and used a photocopy machine to enlarge a 4x6 photo of himself to life size. That process slightly abstracted the light-dark pattern of the image and created a strong graphic quality. Johnson placed a dark band over the eyes and genitals, making the photograph suggest a case in a medical book. In a deliberate provocation, he titled the work Ecce Homo ("This Is Man").
Some were outraged by this piece and some praised it. Many saw it as a protest against the medicalization and dehumanization of dwarfs. Although Johnson recognizes that inhabiting a dwarf body will always retain its ability to "evoke a charge" his work suggests that people with short stature need to both defy stereotyping and be able to look directly at themselves.
And so our telephone project begins....
(Bibliography: 'The Lives of Dwarfs' by Betty Adelson)