Mad with its Own Loveliness

Readers' Submissions Invited

Crystal Johnson with Still I RiseOne of the pleasures of working with smart college students is that while their intellects approach adult sophistication, their young minds are still sufficiently unclamped to allow a bit of lunacy to slip into the profundity.  Such was the case when IRAAA+  intern Kendall Johnson, a Hampton University junior journalism major, helped the editor pump some life into a lead for a story.  


Detail of Johnson's Still I Rise“If it is true that great art is mad with its own loveliness, then (Jane Doe’s Deer Park)  is sensationally insane!,”  Kendall wrote.  She was referring to a real artist and her work; the artist’s name and artwork title do not appear here because the article was published with another lead supplied by the author.  Never-the-less, we liked Kendall’s expression so we dreamed up a use for it that should prove even more useful than its original purpose.  

Crystal Johnson, Still I Rise, 2012, ceramic/mixed media, 54 x 18 x 18, Joseph Galliard Ceramics Award“Mad with Its Own Loveliness” is now the theme of a new IRAAA+ column based on reader input.  We invite your recommendations to fill in the blanks in this statement:

“If it is true that great art is mad with its own loveliness, then _____________________________ ‘s (name of artist) ___________________ (name of artwork) is sensationally insane!” 

To submit a recommendation, complete the statement by providing the name of the artist, the title of the artwork, the artist’s brief bio, a digital image of the artwork and the artist’s email address and/or phone number.  Recommendations that best reflect the statement’s bodacious claim will run in the column.   We’ll check with the artist to verify reproduction permission for the image and will notify reader and artist when the content is uploaded.  Send recommendations to IRAAA+ editorial assistant, Marlisa Sanders at:

To launch the column, we’re filling in the blanks with a charmingly madcap mix of basketry, gourd, ceramic sculpture, pigments, fibers and shells that was a winner in the ceramics category (the Joseph Gilliard award) of Hampton University Museum’s 2012 New Power Generation juried exhibition.

If it is true that great art is mad with its own loveliness, then Crystal Johnson’s Still I Rise is sensationally insane! 

Johnson says her work addresses women’s issues such as “understanding our identity and roles; symbols of beauty; the struggle of securing our place in today’s society; and balancing our strengths and insecurities.”

She explains:  “Pieced together like a patchwork quilt, is my visual expression of these issues through narratives from my own life and those of others.”   She hopes that her work encourages viewers to  “more closely connect and identify with their own strengths and inner beauty, an ideal that transcends across all races, religions, and genders.”  

Hampton Roads native, Crystal Johnson earned a BFA from Christopher Newport University and a MFA from Norfolk State/Old Dominion University’s joint MFA program.  She began exhibiting professionally as a sophomore in college and has participated in 65 national, regional, invitational, group and solo exhibitions.  Her awards, in addition to the Gilliard prize, include the Hampton Roads Convention Center Purchase Award, Best in Show and the Jane Butler Memorial Award.