You can’t help but notice her when she’s at the supermarket checkout.
Pamela Michelle Johnson is the one whose cart is filled with 50 Hostess cupcakes. At
Burger King, she is the one holding up the drive-thru, ordering a dozen hamburgers to
go. Johnson’s appetite for junk has nothing to do with her desire to consume high-fat
and processed foods. Rather, it has everything to do with her felt need to paint them.
“I see junk food as cultural icons … emblematic of our excessive
consumption, where quantity is often preferred over quality,” says the
Chicago-based artist, whose 6-foot-tall paintings of sandwich, cake and
candy pileups and discarded wrappers invoke a curious mix of societal
criticism and warm nostalgia. Photo-realistic from a distance and more
painterly up close, Johnson, a lifelong creative who left an engineering
career to pursue art, creates a composition, photographs it, and then
sketches and paints from photos. Her favorite painting of all is the last
one she has finished.