"Knockout has an interesting history. The original Knockout was painted in 2020 during the pandemic and exhibited at Golden Belt Gallery in Durham, NC. It was flamboyant. I decided in 2022 that it was too loud. I used many different colored layers over the original painting to tone down the original."
- Wiley Johnson
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ACRYLIC ON CANVAS
30" x 48"
“What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything? Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together.” - Vincent van Gogh
Receiving a gift from his neighbor of a disappearing Van Gogh toy at his fifth grade birthday party began Wiley’s life-long interest in art and museums. Art became the way Wiley copes with the challenges of living with Autism Spectrum Disorder, learning, and finding stable employment. The first time he was invited to enter an art call, Wiley was ecstatic and amazed that “someone thought a painting I created was beautiful!” In 2011, his only sibling Zach was killed in a motorcycle accident which “knocked the wind out of [Wiley’s] sails”. He wasn’t able to paint for a while but gradually discovered that painting helped him cope with his grief, the same way painting helps him through the day to day. Once again, painting allowed him to find a happier place.
Years ago, he was hospitalized for depression which is hard for him to talk about but he hopes to share his experience with others who struggle. “Your life can get better, but it requires you to think about the things you can change and to work to make those changes one at a time. That’s what I’ve learned,” Wiley says.
Typically, Wiley paints with acrylic on canvas but likes to paint small wooden crafts too, enjoying the way acrylic flows off the paintbrush. The act of creating is tied to his mood, and he’s not always able to access an expressive mindset. He works on a piece in multiple sittings, revisiting the canvas until he decides how to finish.
Engaging with arts organizations and building community has bolstered Wiley’s art career, confidence, and imagination. As a member of Art Space, Visual Art Exchange, Imurj, and The Artist Link Project of Art Access - these groups have offered opportunities for local exhibitions and art calls. Wiley shares, “being involved in art exhibitions connected me to new people and made my life more interesting.”
ArtLifting connected with Wiley through Arts Access, the former VSA Affiliate in Raleigh, North Carolina. “I believe ArtLifting is the most promising opportunity of my life.” Wiley hopes to sell art to larger audiences which will secure him into the cycle of creating art which in turn creates his happiness.
ArtLifting champions artists impacted by homelessness or disabilities through the celebration and sale of their artwork. Learn more here.