When I first met Michael Johnson (Mike) at a lounge on 8th Avenue, I thought he was Emile Hirsch.
We met back in 2009 at the closed or bankrupted lounge called THE GATES (they still owe me cash). I was hanging when Mike walked in, “hey, aren’t you that actor?” I said. Mike responded, “You are thinking of Emile Hirsch if I’m not mistaken, but no I am not him. Although many people think that I am. We have a similar look.” It didn’t matter as I grabbed two beautiful women and said, “ladies, come meet Emile Hirsch” he smiled saying hello to the ladies (not denying my introduction) and our friendship was formed…
He had just moved to New York for the summer, leaving behind a cozy high paying position at Sally Hershberger in Los Angeles. His celebrity clientele was rocketing but his urge to live and experience New York City was even more fierce. He wanted to pursue his artistic dreams and realized New York was a creative resting destination to gather his thoughts and artistic energy. Three years later, his efforts have been realized through hard work and skill. It wasn’t an easy decision to leave New York, but knowing he needed to be back home where resources and connections were solid provided a foundation in order to complete his art.
Initially, he began plating images on to metal. There was a basic feel towards the pieces and they were unique in that images had a different “shine” to them, which is difficult to even capture on camera and must be scene in person.
After creating more than a dozen pieces of art with images of the Beatles, David Bowie, Marilyn Monroe, Slash, The Rolling Stones and the list goes on. Mike began to incorporate color about the same time in 2010 to his pieces as well as jewels or precious stones and even gold. It was the gold plated AK-47 rifle that caught my attention the most.
Today, with his first show in New York debuting a piece valued over $5 million US dollars, I would say he has come a long way from driving around pieces of metal back and forth from his studio to his home in his Range Rover. His latest and most most prized piece is a full scale sabertooth cat (hoplophoneus) skull constructed out of 3 lbs of solid 14k gold. The fangs are set with over 2,000 stones; yellow diamonds, with rubies spiraling in one direction and cognac diamonds spiraling in the opposite direction. Smaller teeth are plated in rhodium over the 14k gold. (see images below)
Although his art has changed, he remains the same Meatball Shop eating guy who enjoys beer and vodka equally. Always following through with his word, I’m sure he will continue to dazzle his audience with more works in the near future. For now, we are looking forward to his work on display this June 7th here in New York (invite and details can be found in our What’s On section).
If you are interested in hearing more about Michael’s work email us below.