For nearly three decades Angela Johnson “the soprano” thrilled audiences with her professional vocal talent. But today, it is Angela Johnson “the sculptor” who is touching lives and hearts with her gift. MormonSoprano shares an exclusive interview with this artist who is a witness of the power and miracles of Jesus Christ.
I first heard of Angela during a Sunday worship service. The speaker told our congregation about a powerful sculpture exhibit of Christ that had been housed at the St. George Temple visitor center. When I heard; “…the artist was a former opera singer”, I knew I needed to make contact with this woman! What followed was a lively and generous correspondence through email and phone. We shared an immediate bond. She has graciously provided the photos for this article. (click any image to enlarge)
Angela Johnson grew up on a dairy farm outside Columbia Falls, Montana, and currently resides in Gilbert, Arizona. She is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Angela and her husband Kenneth have been married for 31 years. They have four children and nine grandchildren.
MoSop: One of the most intriguing aspects of your story is that you have not been a sculptor all of your life – and in fact were a former operatic soprano. Where did you do your training? What roles did you sing, and where did you perform?
AJ:I began singing when I was 13 years old. I studied voice for over 25 years. Recitals, concerts and dramatic presentations were the outlets of performing that seemed to fit with having a family. I studied in New York, San Diego, Utah and Arizona.
Far more important than what I sang or what I wore was what was happening to my soul.
MoSop: What happened that made you consider leaving your singing career? How long did it take for you to make that decision?
AJ: One day in my late thirties when I was beginning to start my daily vocal exercises something inside of me collapsed. I shut the lid to my piano, and the Spirit led me. I grabbed my keys, and got into my tan van. I drove to the art store, bought a block of water based clay and one sculpting tool. Four hours later there was a portrait bust of a little girl on my kitchen table. I was stunned, in awe, absolutely taken with the intelligence in my hands. It was as though the finger of God had touched my heart and told me that it was now time for me to begin to develop a talent I didn’t know I had. It was like being born again. I made the decision right there to begin to sculpt one thing after another. It wasn’t long before people began asking me to sculpt private commissions.
MoSop: Had you taken sculpting classes, or done this kind of art before?
AJ: No, none!
MoSop: Was the transition from singing to sculpting difficult for you?
AJ: I love to sculpt! Being able to testify of Jesus Christ fits me so much better than pursuing an operatic career ever did. I still sing and love to listen to others sing. All that I learned through singing; the discipline, the focus, principles of music and performance, the importance of connecting with emotion, which is such a common bond between us all, breathing, projecting, all of it in some way or another plays a part in my sculptures.
MoSop: How do you get your ideas to create a certain piece? How long does a piece take, and what is the creative process like?
AJ:The vast majority of work I do is figurative. In 2003 it was the desire of my heart to understand what God wanted me to do with this gift He had given me. The concept of a sculpture garden depicting the teachings and miracles of Jesus Christ came to me. I have always loved Jesus Christ. I distinctly remember being a five year old little girl and adoring Jesus Christ. Even though I did not know how I would face the challenge of creating the portrayal of Jesus I had faith that it would happen. “It is I, Be Not Afraid” was the first scene I sculpted in the series of depicting Jesus.
MoSop: You have also formed a non-profit Foundation which envisions a sculpture garden. Please tell us more about that.
AJ:The concept of the “I Am the Light of the World Gardens” is that each of the scenes I have sculpted of Jesus would be increased to life size and installed in a majestic, serene garden setting where the sculptures are designed into beautiful landscaped settings and water features where people could come and ponder upon this witness in art that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the Savior of the World. People have asked if it will be a place where people of other faiths will be welcome. Absolutely! My belief is that people have the right to worship as they choose and that we need to respect others beliefs as we want them to respect our own devotion to Jesus Christ.
MoSop: Do you have a location chosen for the garden?
AJ: There are several locations that are being evaluated but no specific site is yet determined. Architectural renderings are currently underway
MoSop: What’s happening next?
AJ: My exhibit The Healing Power of Jesus Christ is currently in Oakland, California. I have about 10 – 12 more scenes that I need to create depicting Jesus.
MoSop: Do you still perform vocally? Do you think you will ever return to the stage?
AJ: I still sing, but have no desire to perform as I did when I was younger. I give many presentations where I always sing to testify of Jesus Christ. I am working with the brilliant composer Crawford Gates in creating “The Healing Power of Jesus Christ Oratorio“ that will be performed in the Mormon Tabernacle in the near future. I know the awesome power of music and want to bless others lives with the expression of my love and adoration of Him through my sculptures and music.
MoSop: Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
This pain can literally torture the rest of their life. Being able to give that pain to Christ, let it go and replace it with creativity, sharing and love is part of what it means to follow Jesus Christ. I know personally the heavy sadness and bondage of evil but I also know the brilliant light of the love of God. Christ without fail turns beauty out of ashes.
I invite everyone to please visit my website to feel that love.
I also want people to know that each of us is unique and so important. The opportunity to learn and grow and share is so vital and important. No one should ever feel unimportant or insignificant. Following our own path and discovering our own gifts is a wonderful, exciting adventure!
Help The Garden Grow
Angela shared that very soon there will be small sculpture renderings – 6” and 12” – available for purchase specifically to help fund the Healing Garden. These sculptures will be priced below value, because: “I want people to feel that even in harder economic times when you believe in something and want to help, you still can”.
Help make this beautiful dream a reality! Details are coming soon on her website!