happy birthday, dusty

Will you please help me give my pal “Dusty” a big thrill on his birthday, which is today?

Please visit his blogsite and leave a comment. The other night he said rather plaintively that hardly anyone ever leaves comments on his site which features some of the nicest photography and artwork you will ever see.

Dusty is a nickname. His real name is James J. Johnson. Jim is a visual artist, teacher, and one of the most distinguished graphic designers in the Upper Midwest and maybe the entire Universe.

I met him close to forty years ago at a party when he was in his “Zorba the Greek” phase and cut the most outrageous figure among all of us who were dancing. I remember thinking he was possibly the wildest, most fun-loving guy I’d ever met, a first impression confirmed time and again through our long friendship.

Jim could always get away with his wild ways because he is so damned talented and, well, lovable. Women describe him as a big, charming teddy bear.

At the time we first met, he was head graphic designer at the Walker Art Center, the Minneapolis version of New York’s MOMA. This was one of the plumb situations for a young designer anywhere in the country—top of the heap. During his time at the Walker, Jim met and often worked with the most important modern artists of post-WWII America. Jim’s outdoor posters and signage—because his images were everywhere in Minneapolis—for me defined the hip identity of the city in the seventies.

In the decades of the eighties and nineties, Jim worked out of his independent studio for a large number of corporate clients that are household names—Medtronic, Honeywell, IBM, etc. We collaborated a lot during this time on all kinds of client work, and I began to notice something.

No matter what we were doing personally and professionally, our ideas always seemed to develop in uncanny parallel. This pattern continues to the present day. For example, around the time I moved to West Texas Jim moved to a working ranch in rural South Dakota. We’re learning and experiencing the exact same things, but in different ways. It’s kinda crazy.

Anyway, please do visit his site, take in some beautiful images, and leave behind a note that you were there and saw something on the site you particularly enjoyed. You will make not one but two old guys real happy and have a good time in the process.

Here is the address: http://woollymammoths.org/Wildness/ and here is a sample of what you’ll see there.



2 Responses to “happy birthday, dusty”

  1. 1 Susan K Gerdes
    February 18, 2010 at 3:29 pm

    Happy Birthday Dusty is a wonderful tribute to a Mountain of a Man. Mountain in the sense that he is as big in stature as he is in his artistic abilities and spiritualness. The little I have known him he has helped me with my inhabitions in Art. In the rural area you learn to tame down your ideas for fear that people will call you a nut….well call us nuts.
    Never knowing anyone to talk openly about the “Art World” in The Dakotas,was not easy. Jim has opened my eyes to so many possiblities and made me see my true self and that teaching is our job here on earth. My Motto now is…Always be yourself, because the people that matter won’t mind,and the ones that mind don’t matter.
    Thank you our friend and “Happy Birthday Dear Dusty”!

  2. 2 Kristi Mather
    February 19, 2010 at 2:54 am

    Happy Birthday Pappa! One way or another you will get this message!

    I love you and I like you!

    Your #1 daughter

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