Post By Sona Santry, Art Possible Ohio Intern
All images from Jen White-Johnson at https://jenwhitejohnson.com
People of color and people with disabilities are two groups that are both incredibly underrepresented in modern media. Jen White-Johnson aims to fix this and much more. She is an Art Educator and Activist, photographer, and Assistant Professor of Graphic Design and Visual Culture at Bowie State University, with a BA in Visual Arts from University of Maryland Baltimore County and an MFA in Graphic Design from the Maryland Institute College of Art. Ms. White-Johnson is an Afro-Latina woman with Graves disease and ADHD, and her son was diagnosed with autism at the age of two. Her cultural background, disabilities, and her son’s life experiences have all been major contributors to and inspirations for her work.
Through her bright, spirited, and compelling art, Jen White-Johnson explores how the experiences of being a person of color and the experiences of being disabled intersect with one another. Her work “educates, bridges divergent worlds, and builds a future that mirrors her Autistic son’s experience.” The photo above is from a photo zine that White-Johnson created with Kevin Johnson Jr. With photography provided by Ms. White-Johnson and words provided by Kevin Johnson Jr., the zine captures six years in her son’s life and aims to increase the visibility of children of color in the neurodiverse and autistic communities. In ethnic minority communities, disability is often stigmatized, but with this zine and her other art, White-Johnson is bolstering the acceptance of autistic and neurodiverse people in those communities.
The print shown above features a silhouette of White-Johnson’s son, Knox, in front of the phrase “Soul of Neurodiversity” repeated several times. On her website, White-Johnson states that this piece is meant to “[show] the honesty and soul often left out of the narrative as it relates to the autism spectrum.” Like many of her other pieces, White-Johnson focuses on the person within the diagnosis. Many people assume that for a disabled, autistic, or otherwise neurodiverse person, their diagnosis is the primary and most important aspect of their existence. Through her work, Jen White-Johnson advocates for these things to simply be another factor in what makes disabled or neurodiverse people unique, and not what defines them. For more information about Jen White-Johnson and her work, click here to visit https://jenwhitejohnson.com.