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Scott Johnson’s Literary Inspiration

Similar to Terry Maker’s inspiration from John Milton’s Paradise Lost, current temporary exhibition artist Scott Johnson draws from a variety of literary sources for his artistic inspiration. Here are some of the artist’s favorite snippets from various books and poems.

Rainer Maria Rilke
(image source).

“For beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror, which we still are just able to endure, and we are so awed because it serenely disdains to annihilate us.”

— Rainer Maria Rilke, from “First Duino Elegy”

“But what most puzzled and confounded you was a long, limber, portentous, black mass of something hovering in the centre of the picture… A boggy, soggy, squitchy picture truly, enough to drive a nervous man distracted. Yet was there a sort of indefinite, half-attained, unimaginable sublimity about it that fairly froze you to it, till you involuntarily took an oath with yourself to find out what that marvellous painting meant… But stop; does it not bear a faint resemblance to… even the great leviathan himself?”

— Herman Melville, from Moby Dick

“His visionary sketch of the habitat for postmodern humans recalls us to the elemental relationship we have to the earth, to its place within the cosmos, and to previous human cultures who have understood, so well, the limits of human powers. This is the vision of tragic man.”

— John Gilmour, from Fire On The Earth: Anselm Kiefer and the Postmodern World (The Arts And Their Philosophie



Scott Johnson, The No Plateau, detail, 2012.

Between the idea

And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the shadow
— T.S. Eliot, from “The Hollow Men”


“Our normal waking consciousness… is but one special type of consciousness, whilst all about it, parted from it by the filmiest of screens, there lie potential forms of consciousness entirely different… No account of the universe in its totality can be final which leaves these other forms of consciousness quite disregarded. How to regard them is the question — for they are so discontinuous with ordinary consciousness. Yet they may determine attitudes though they fail to give a map.”
— William James, from The Varieties of Religious Experience