Taller than trees and towering over buildings, Johanna Goodman's female forms appear to stretch far above the landscapes before them. The collaged works, which combine elements of art, design, photography and architecture, are a part Goodman’s series titled The Catalogue of Imaginary Beings, which aims to explore the individual’s role in history and popular culture. They reference everything from politics to mother nature, and they’re so intriguing that we couldn’t help it but ask for the symbolism and secrets behind them.
When you finished your studies in Parsons School of Design, you became a freelance illustrator. How was that change? Did you learn to do this work during your degree or after that?
I was studying and got my degree in Illustration so the transition from school to the world of freelance illustration was somewhat seamless. At least I can say that now, because it was such a long time ago that I’ve forgotten all the trials and tribulations. I spent many years painting and drawing and occasionally collaging but I must say I didn’t throw myself into collage until a few years ago, well into my two decades of being a working artist. So no, I didn’t do much collage of any kind while in school. It is still relatively young and new in my oeuvre.
Can you tell us about the referents that inspire you on a daily basis?
I take inspiration from whatever I can – art in museums, people on the street, the actual street itself, stuff in thrift shops, plant life outside my house, etc. Really whatever I see around me, I don’t discriminate.
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How would you describe your style? And how have you developed this strong visual personality?
I hope my style is bold and assertive but also subtle and intimate. Is that too much to ask? But I’d rather other people try to figure out what my style is. I just like to do what I do and then it is what it is.
What are the differences between your first pieces and the artworks that you create right now? How has your style, way of working and thinking evolved since your beginnings as an artist?
Without question the main difference is that now I trust my intuition and make what feels right to me, and when I was starting out I was mainly concerned with trying to please the viewer, which is very difficult because you don’t know who your viewer is going to be or what they like so you’re doomed to failure and angst. 
You combine natural elements such as clouds, icebergs, forests and sunsets, together with chimneys, buildings, paintings, textures, drawings, graffiti, animals and human organs. Where do you get all this material? Do you classify it before starting to mix and amalgamate it? How do you decide what goes with what?
I find my collage material everywhere. Sometimes I take my own photographs, sometimes I find them in old magazines, sometimes in public library collections. There is virtually no organization or classification before I see something and start to use it. I usually get a very vague idea of what I’m looking for and start searching around for material based on that. Then of course I find something completely different and unrelated to my original idea and I use that.
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A rocket woman, a half-chimney half-cloud figure, a body made of New York City’s Guggenheim building… Who are the people depicted in all your Imaginary Beings series?
If pressed I would say they are all different facets of myself.
By the way, if you could turn yourself into one of your Imaginary Beings, what would you be made of?
They are each a piece of me so I would be made of any and all of them.
Most of the Imaginary Beings we’ve seen so far are female. Why do you mainly focus on women figures? Is there any socio-political message behind this? (We’ve seen in one of them that you don’t like Trump at all…).
I think they are mostly female because I’m female. And a feminist. Women have been referred to as ‘the second sex’ but to me they are number one. Also because they are some sort of paper dolls that I play with like I did when I was a child. I spent lots of time in my youth with fashion magazines too, and my Imaginary Beings are my dolls to dress in my own bizarre way. I hope they are very different than the women in most fashion imagery though. I distinctly dislike how lanky and waif-like women are depicted in fashion. I much prefer the giant and imposing women I make.
And yes, I am tormented daily by the nightmarish reality that, somehow, someone like Trump could possibly have gotten himself elected to any government office – much less the very highest office in the country. Don’t get me started.
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We can see lot of symbolism and references in your work, but most of the time decontextualized. Do you consider yourself an iconoclast?
I hate to label myself but if you would like to consider me an iconoclast, by all means go ahead.
You’ve printed your artworks in pillows, plates, vases and even skateboards. Why did you decide to turn your pieces into everyday objects? Why not just focus on fine art prints?
Just as I take my inspiration from everywhere – galleries but also tag sales, not only museums or sanctioned artists –, I hope to communicate and inspire people through my work in all outlets, high and low. I really love seeing my work come to life in all kinds of forms and I love imagining that people not only look at my work but use it in their daily life.
What’s the next step in your career? If you had the possibility to do something big right now in relation with your career, what would it be?
I would love for my work to insinuate itself so many more uses… I probably should design a line of clothing based on some of my Beings and take over the fashion Industry. And the costume industry. I’d like to design costumes for the next big fantastical film or Broadway show. I would love to publish a giant art book – a realized Catalogue of Imaginary Beings with huge Illustrated plates of all the Beings in the spirit of Audubon’s renowned compendium of birds, and of course that would be accompanied by a gallery show of large-scale prints that would travel the world. I also need to make three-dimensional Beings sculptures and/or dolls. I could go on and on but I imagine you have other things to do.
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