Celebrating the Life of a Beloved Artist
“I have always been deeply interested in ideas about perception and states of mind and have explored them through the marriage of nature and technology.”
A detailed essay of her works, collaborations, notable achievements, and legacy...
Learn About Kate
An extensive collection of images, artwork, and memories celebrating the life of Kate Johnson.
Quotes, short essays, and tributes by friends, colleagues, and others who have been touched by Kate.
Kate Johnson was a hyphenate. An exemplar of the evolution of the new creative class of the 21st Century. An Emmy® Award winning filmmaker, as an artist she created internationally exhibited and critically acclaimed works in a variety of media and genres, exploring the nexus and logical synchronicities among art, anthropology, technology and social justice.
For Johnson, boundaries were illusions, invented to keep all the rich diversity of thought apart.
Johnson had the heart and soul of an artist combined with the mind and hands of an engineer. She wrote the film scripts and computer code for many of her projects: writing, directing, shooting, animating, editing, coding, and producing original video art works, which she often accompanied with her own original music and sound design compositions.
She was among the handful of women in the world who created and worked in large-scale site-specific digital projection, creating massive original projections that have graced iconic places such as the Getty Center, LA City Hall, West Hollywood Park, and Japan American Cultural Center. But never to forget her community, her projections were also compassionately presented in dance & music concerts and live theater. The content and social commentary of her work ranged from family-friendly to challenging, dependent of course on the intended audience. She saw each audience as unique, and actually part of the art experience itself, and designed her experiences for each of them in unique ways.
Every project Johnson created was a unique exploration into the zeitgeist and evolution of media as a means of trans-national communication. For Johnson, the more ways in which we learn to communicate, the better the prospect was for true understanding. Sometimes she wrote poetry; other times, she pushed the limits of the electronic arts.
This was her passion, to always explore and expand. She saw all creativity as a continuum, ranging seamlessly between the arts and sciences.
Excerpts from Kate Johnson's projects ranging in large scale projection art, video art, and installations. All work was conceived and designed by her.
View Works by Kate Johnson
Accompanying her projects as an independent artist, Kate Johnson warmly welcomed the creative ‘give & take’ of true collaborations by working with world-class artists in a variety of media. She craved transforming non-traditional spaces into art spaces and began her experimentation with massive-format imagery in the early 2000s. Among her early such collaborations was “Almost There” with celebrated photographer Loretta Livingston, turning the 7th Street Metro station platform into an immersive live and installation experience, with massive projections, live dance and music.
Her work includes a 20-year collaboration with the legendary performance artist Barbara T. Smith, having just completed and assisted Smith on the creation of her long-awaited and soon to be published book What You Need to Know about Smith’s seminal performance art masterpiece Feed Me. No doubt this important book will contextualize in the words of Smith herself, this performance art milestone, often praised, sometimes misunderstood, but always at the core of Performance Art itself.
Johnson also collaborated with S. Pearl Sharp in editing the multi award-winning documentary The Healing Passage: Voices From the Water, by S. Pearl Sharp, in which prominent cultural artists address the present-day residuals of the trans-Atlantic slave trade…
Additionally, she edited and published High Performance Magazine and 18th Street Arts Center co-founder Suzanna Bixby Daikin’s book “An Artist for President.”
Book cover for Suzanna Bixby Dakin’s "An Artist for President", edited and published by Kate Johnson (2014).
Her deep appreciation for dance (having studied and performed extensively in decades past) made her a sought-after collaborator for cross-cultural multi-media projection work. One such work was Mara, inspired by classical Indian philosophy and religious traditions, working in collaboration with Indian-based choreographer Mythili Prakash and composer Aditya Prakash.
Video still from projection from “Mara”, collaboration with choreographer Mythili Prakash. World premiere John Anson Ford Theater.
Click for more information about this project.
Johnson believed that artistic and technical innovation often go hand and hand. In what was likely the first digital feature documentary film to screen at the Museum of Modern Art, Johnson served as film editor for “Ann Sothern: The Sharpest Girl in Town”, a feature documentary about one of Hollywood’s first female TV producers; Academy-nominated actress Ann Southern which was conceived and directed by Mike Kaplan. It premiered as work-in-progress at MOMA in 1997. That same year, for the 50th Anniversary of the Institute of Contemporary Art, London, Johnson was commissioned to produce “Dschungel!,” an early digital narrative feature film.
“Ann Sothern, The Sharpest Girl in Town” (1997) Director Mike Kaplan, Editor Kate Johnson. See Fuse film review.
Believing in the notion of STEAM and not merely STEM, she saw the relationship between art and science as a creative continuum and not antithetical opposites, with overlaps in many places along the innovation spectrum. As part of the 35th Anniversary of EZTV in 2014, she collaborated with physicists at Fermilab as well as at the University of Michigan.
Her last completed works were a 7-channel video installation exhibited in the windows of the former Barnes & Noble at the 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica, as well as a 2-channel large-scale projection presented as a special event at the Los Angeles Zoo, and a mini-documentary on a seminal women’s organization.
Kate was a talented actor, appearing in several EZTV video productions and continued to occasionally take the stage during her 27 years at EZTV. This included "Rage to Know" performed at Cal State Northridge in 2005. A live multimedia collaboration of dance, video and theater by Donna Sternberg & Dancers & EZTV:
At the time of her death, Kate was producing/directing with long-time partner Michael J. Masucci a video profile on Frederick Nicholas, in collaboration with Anthony Nicholas of Lapis Press. In addition, Johnson & Masucci were collaborating with Maryland-based neuroscientist Gregory Carpenter, exploring ways of translating actual recordings of dreams and thoughts into Digital Art. She had hoped to one day stage internationally, the results of these ground-breaking experiments in art & technology.
Michael J. Masucci and Kate Johnson filming.
For some projects, traditional media genres were most appropriate. In 2015, the film Mia, A Dancer’s Journey received an LA Emmy® Award and a Golden Mic Award which Kate Johnson co-produced and co-directed with Maria Ramas. It had its world premiere at the Film Society at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, NYC, and was broadcast nationwide on numerous PBS stations, and broadcast in Germany and Croatia. “Mia” is the compelling story of an acclaimed dancer whose life personified the European diaspora of World War II as well as the subsequent immigration to the US of numerous artists, including the legendary Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, of which Mia was a member.
Click to watch acceptance speech
Poster for the Emmy® Award winning documentary, “Mia: A Dancer’s Journey”. Read New York Times article.
Kate Johnson, Michael J. Masucci, and local film crew collaborators at HRT, the National Television of Croatia, during the initial filming for "Mia, A Dancer's Journey" in Zagreb, Croatia.
For other projects, conventions such as linear narrative structure seemed inadequate to convey the feeling, totality and investigation of the natural world, with its multi-faceted (and multi-dimensional) complexity. For example, “Arboreal Witness,” a site-specific video sculpture, originally commissioned for a one-night event in Tongva Park, which has been rendered in two formats, one outdoor park installation spanning over 80 feet, with over 100 synchronized video monitors, facing in 2 opposite directions, and a smaller, indoor, gallery-friendly version with 40 monitors.
“Arboreal Witness” 40-monitor video sculpture, Sturt Haaga Gallery, Descanso Gardens (2018).
Click for more information about the larger 2016 outdoor version at Tongva park.
While a PBS style documentary requires the skills of a storyteller, with Johnson’s additional skills as an animator and editor, video sculpture required a more non-time-based approach, more intuitive, more experiential and perhaps even more spiritually based. And her work as an engineer/coder allowed her to expand the toolsets which were available to her.
Works for which Johnson was a principal collaborator have been presented at the Museum of Modern Art (NY), the Cannes Film Festival, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, the Institute of Contemporary Art (London), the Wire Factory (Helsinki), the Istanbul Dance Festival, San Francisco Public Library (Main Branch) and locally at UCLA, USC, Highways Performance Space, Los Angeles Theater Center, the Japanese American Cultural Center, Cal State, Northridge, Cal State LA, Cal State, Long Beach, Santa Monica College, the Edy Broad Stage, the Anson Ford Theater, Tongva Park, Bergamot Station, Track 16, West Hollywood Park, ONE Archives Museum and Gallery, Descanso Gardens, and SIGGRAPH. And of course, her creative home: EZTV.
As Johnson had said, she delved into the secrets of the natural world, through the tools of the world of technology, finding the universal commonality between them. She brought together her artistic skills as animator, live action cinematographer, sound designed with her technical skills as coder and projection mapper into full play in “Spirits of Morty,” honoring a century-old tree into a luminescent work of video/light sculpture, imaging the thoughts and experiences that this living being has experienced during its century standing in what is now a Santa Monica park.
Video still of the projection from Johnson's "Spirits of Morty" in honoring a century-old tree in Santa Monica park.
Click to watch "Spirits of Morty"
Perhaps her most ambitious work was 2015’s “Everywhere in Between”, commissioned by Santa Monica’s Cultural Affairs Division, through a grant from the NEA and facilitated by 18th Street Arts Center. Johnson transformed the unnoticed spaces between the galleries at Bergamot Station into a living, interactive art experience with her massive projections and light installations, including 3 IMAX projectors, several dance companies, 2 bands, and various other performance artists, poets and mimes. KCRW’s Edward Goldman praised it in an article “Bergamot Station: The Night to Remember” and suggested that it should become an annual event. Perhaps someday it may, in tribute to her memory.
Live music performance at Bergamot Station during Kate Johnson’s
"EVERYWHERE in BETWEEN"
Click to watch "Everywhere in Between"
3 IMAX Projectors project a massive image on Bergamot Station building as part of “Everywhere in Between” (2015). Click for more information about this project.
In addition to her Emmy® Award, Kate Johnson has been the recipient of a number of other awards and honors, including the Golden Mic Award, three Telly Awards, as well as special Commendations from both the County of Los Angeles and the City of Santa Monica.
"It is true that practice, strength and the development of tools is fundamental in learning any artform. But to go beyond the elementary and technical and reach the inspirational, one must learn to see in a new way. One must allow his spirit to guide, and at times overpower, the intellect."
Throughout her 27-year career, Johnson supported herself full time as a professional media artist, working in many parts of the United States as well as the U.K., Finland, Turkey, Qatar, Mexico and France.
Yet despite this full time commitment to her art, she has also managed to find time to give back through teaching. She was seen as a passionate advocate and inspiration for her students, many of whom have distinguished themselves in their own careers. As an educator, for over 20 years she taught and mentored several generations of new digital artists as Associate Professor for Digital Media at Otis College of Art & Design, and prior to that she taught at the American Film Institute.
In addition to her creative work, she has lectured on the role that art must play in world politics and security, at an elite, invitation-only conference attended by government and corporate officials, as well as speaking, including as keynote, at a variety of other major art and technology conferences including SIGGRAPH.
Kate was a passionate advocate for women's rights, their professional advancement, and the critical role of leadership that women play in all aspects of society. During the 7 years that Kate worked on Maria Shriver's Women's Conference during Shriver's tenure as First Lady of California, Kate designed and produced numerous graphics, animations, and videos which were projected onto numerous and often massive projection screens, to the 14,000 attendees at the Long Beach Convention Center. During those years, Michael J. Masucci would joke that Kate's videos and graphics "had accompanied everyone from Michelle Obama to the Dalai Lama", but it was actually true. Among the numerous political, academic, entertainment & corporate leaders who graced the stages of the Women's Conference were 2 women who especially inspired Kate so much: Michelle Obama and Ruth Bader-Ginsberg.
Maria Shriver, Michelle Obama, and Ruth Bader-Ginsberg at the 2010 Women's Conference in which Kate Johnson projected her work onto the large screens for the 14,000 attendees.
Last year, EZTV celebrated its 40th Anniversary, with four events staged at the Kandinsky Library, Centre Pompidou, Paris. Kate Johnson spoke and presented at two of the four events. In August 2020, three scholars/curators who produced these Pompidou events, will spend an entire month in Los Angeles studying in much greater detail, EZTV’s indispensably seminal, and immense, but still oft-overlooked contributions to LA’s media art history.
This research will focus on two important archives, collected, preserved and advocated for, for over 25 years by Johnson. These archives include materials available nowhere else in the world, of important but under-represented Queer artists, long lost and largely forgotten, through the AIDS pandemic. Although cisgender, Queer leader Michael Kearns, has called her a hero to the Gay community, and although Johnson does not have AIDS, because of her commitment to preserving the work of artist lost to AIDS, Kearns also called her an “AIDS survivor.”
Hopefully these visiting French scholars will also recognize Johnson’s contributions not only to EZTV’s history, but to media art history as a whole.
Lecture about EZTV at Kandinsky Library, Centre Pompidou, Paris (2019) one of 2 presentations she gave there, as part of Kandinsky Library’s 4-part series on EZTV’s often overlooked history.
Approximately 100 boxes of videos, films, posters, photographs, articles, hardware and other ephemera from what are now two critically important archives about EZTV, one as part of permanent collection at USC’s ONE Archives & Museum, and the rest mainly housed at 18th Street Arts Center.
For 20 years, she was an artist-in-residence at the 18th Street Arts Center, where she has shepherded EZTV into its inevitable and long-overdue historification, in places as varied as UCLA, the Centre Pompidou, and USC, whose ONE Archives has acquired much of EZTV’s early works.
Kate Johnson’s belief in EZTV’s role as “Art as Anthropology” was typified not only in her numerous art projects and interventions in a variety of media, but is perhaps gleaned best through her short essays which document the depth of persons and experiences she has known firsthand, such as:
Nureyev’s Last Lover
Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh Really!
and perhaps now poignantly,
We Haven’t Forgotten How to Live
During one of the 4-part series events on EZTV's history at the Kandinsky Library, Centre Pompidou in Paris (organized by Pascaline Morincome, Sibylle de Laurens, and Gaspard Nectoux), Johnson gave a two-hour lecture in which she described her life and work with EZTV:
“I came on board at EZTV after John died and I got introduced with an organization that puts tools in artist hands, and said you don’t have to specialize… I was a person who got a business degree to make my parents happy. I worked as an archeologist in college, I studied dance and theater and hang out with fine artists. When somebody said to me ‘You don’t have to just be a writer, or an actor, or a filmmaker, you can approach these mediums like an artist studio, you can take on everything you want to and make your own work’, there was a liberation in that I never found before and I turned my back on mainstream Hollywood. I also knew the bad story about all the artists that have been part of EZTV, who have passed away to Aids. The archeologist in me said, this is gonna be lost, people are not going to remember or care, unless, unless it lives. And the only way to make it live was quite a bit of sacrifices and passion and will, on the side of a few people, Michael is one of them. Yes it was challenging but to me EZTV was a cause to dedicate my life too.”
Kate Johnson was a proud creative citizen of Santa Monica, and equally proud citizen of the Otis College community. But first and foremost, she was the heart of EZTV, saving it from certain demise and nurturing it not only back into health, but onto a world stage reaping critical acclaim and artistic realization never achieved by its founders.
She will be missed but never forgotten.
“To finish this ritual, I declare my resolution: To live and love fully and to commit all of my life fully.”
Massive 28-story video projection commissioned by County of LA onto LA City Halle in honor of Center Theater Group’s 50th Anniversary. Johnson served as both event producer as well as video artist. Click for more information.
Jane Cantillion, Heidi Duckler, and Kate Johnson
A smiling Kate while working at EZTV.
Kate and her Otis Senior Thesis class of 2013
Kate & friend, 2019
Among her early collaborations was “Almost There” with Loretta Livingston, turning the 7th Street Metro station platform into an immersive live and installation experience, with massive projections, live dance and music. Here is the LA Times dance review with description (but uncredited) of the video projections. Click for more information.
Kate in Moscow with Katya Belyaeva
Inksap, Linda Lack, and Kate Johnson
"Art as Archaeology" and her work with EZTV, excerpt from the L.A. Woman Project documentary, 2013. Click to watch video.
Kate with Kevin Spirtas
Kate Johnson saved John Dorr's work of EZTV
Video still from “Libra”, multi-channel installation incorporating live action video, still photography, 2D & 3D animation and original music (2005). Click for more information.
City of Santa Monica Commendation
Kate Johnson and Laurie Yehia
Kate & Natasha Vita-More, 2002
A few of the ladies of the L.A. Woman Project documentary, 2013. Click for more information.
DVD cover for S. Pearl Sharp’s “The Healing Passage: Voices from the Water” (2004). Click for more info.
Kate at the Lincoln Center
Lily Hadyn, Victoria Looseleaf, and Kate
Part of the massive 28-story video projection commissioned by County of LA onto LA City Halle in honor of Center Theater Group’s 50th Anniversary. Johnson served as both event producer as well as video artist. Click for more information.
“Core” Transformation of West Hollywood Park into site-specific video installation including aerial balloon projection, for EZTV's 35th Anniversary (2014). Click for more information.
Gala Opening for Pacific Standard Time, Johnson’s video projected onto all 5 buildings of the Getty Center (2011).
Kate in ICU with Laurie Yehia and Jan Williamson
Kate and Ulysses Jenkins
Kate with Allegra Fuller Snyder, Maria Ramas, and others, 2015
Kate & Danielle Winkler
Celebrating Michael’s birthday with Nina and Sara, December 14, 2019
Kate Johnson in "Quantum Entanglement" by Director Michael J. Masucci, 2003.
Barbara T. Smith panel at The Box
Viewing her 7-channel video installation together at Santa Monica Promenade, Feb 19, 2020
Shortly before her passing, Aziz visited Kate to play the ney for her.
Applause for "Mara", in collaboration with choreographer Mythili Prakash and composer Aditya Prakash. World premiere at the John Anson Ford Theater. Click for more information about this project.
Kate & students Susie Aretos and Nhi Ngoc Vo
Kate Johnson & Michael Masucci, 1996
A young Kate
Wherever she traveled, her camera went with her.
Visiting Susanna B. Dakin in Portland, Oregon.
Kate so loved going to The Hollywood Bowl.
S. Pearl Sharp, Kate, and Strawn Bovee at the debut of "An Artist for President"
Kate Johnson and Dave Curlender
Kate with violin instructor Nancy Kuo and other students at The Hollywood Bowl.
Ariana Gallastegui was Kate's muse and worked with her on 4 major large scale projection and installation projects.
Dr. Timothy Leary and friends taken very shortly before his passing. Front row: Dr. Timothy Leary, Kate, ia Kamandalu (aka Kim McKillip). Back row: Dr. Natasha Vita-More, 2 members of Retinal Logic
The front door of EZTV studio at 18th Street Arts Center now renamed the "Kate Johnson Memorial Media Lab".
Kate, S. Pearl Sharp, Riua, and Michael during “Healing Passage” edit.
Kate Johnson and Michael J. Masucci, 1997
“KJ my love”
A letter by Michael J. Masucci
- Linda Lack Ph.D. and the Artist known as INKSAP
"She was beautiful, radiant, her soul close to the surface." - Clayton Campbell, Artillery Magazine
Click to read the article about Kate Johnson in Artillery Magazine
"Kate was a talented artist and generous individual with a bright smile and infectious warmth…[she] understood the legacy of EZTV and could always get to the heart of why art, community, and the continued preservation of EZTV’s archives was important. Her soft-spoken wisdom was insightful and encouraging." - David Frantz, Former Curator, ONE Archives at the USC Libraries
Click to read Kate Johnson's tribute for USC ONE Archives
"Kate was dearly beloved by our students, many graduates, co-teachers and other colleagues. Kate cannot be replaced. It is recognized as such by all who met and knew her. Our department would hardly be as successful as it has been without Kate's wonderful presence. My life is richer for having known her." - Harry Mott, Chair, Digital Media Department,
Otis College of Art & Design (where Kate taught for 20 years)
Poem by Dan Kwong
"Words do not suffice. Kate was such a clear and resplendent spirit. I am overwhelmed by appreciation of her subtle energy over the years, creative and supportive...and true. We are all here for a blink of an eye. She will be a part of everyone who knew her forever." - David Em
“Hi Michael, you probably don't remember me but I was your student for an intro to digital media back in 2003, and Kate was my teacher for many more classes between 04-07 as well as guiding my independent study. I have been positively crushed by the news of her passing, and I just wanted to extend my condolences to you. She was an amazing person who had a tremendous impact on mine and so many of my peers lives." - Lincoln Smith, a former student of Kate now living in Madrid, Spain
"Among my many memories with Kate, one of my favorites is the contribution she made to an amazing series of live events we pulled off together at Avalon Hollywood, called Circus PAWS. As my co-producer, she handled most of the logistical details for making the show run smoothly. She did her usual top-level professional work and the shows were indeed memorable and successful. As it happens, the final show fell on her birthday that year, and we surprised her by dragging her up on stage and the entire cast sang to her while we wheeled out a large birthday cake with candles a-blazing (see photo).
What a body of work she has; I see our collaborations as a small point of light among the brilliant stars in her heaven." - Robert B. Gelman
A surprised and happy Kate with the cast singing and wheeling out a birthday cake
Malcolm McDowell, Kate Johnson, and Mike Garson
"We were heartbroken to hear about Kate’s passing. Although we only met Kate a handful of times her beauty and courage will remain in our minds and hearts forever.
The first time we met her was when Candy brought her to our home, we knew then that she was very special, a beautiful gentle soul." - Susan and Mike Garson
"I'm not sure when I first saw Kate. I think we had briefly met at EZTV when she came to see what it was all about. She was a budding actress and a few days later I went with Michael to see her in a play, in which she was compelling and beautiful, a younger version of Katharine Hepburn with a vivid personality and luxurious red hair. Michael thought she would be a wonderful addition to EZTV and would be a quick learner.. but acting was also a path she was pursuing. Michael was right and fortunately, it enabled us to know, work and love Kate for the joy, talent and intelligence she brought to anything she undertook.
With her innate collaborative openness, she immediately accepted and understood projects beyond the commonplace. It was a spirit that was embedded in EZTV with its founder John Dorr and continued with Michael through dire times, then flourished as Kate outgrew her technical baby steps to master and innovate. We had an immediate bond which she often referred to... her first editing cut was as a beginning assistant on LUCK, TRUST and KETCHUP, the documentary about Robert Alman's SHORT CUTS, which I made with John and Michael. Maybe it was providential that that doc was her first video experience. It was the first time Altman allowed his process to be filmed. He was a significant creative risk-taker which Kate would also become.
The full documentary of LUCK, TRUST & KETCHUP that became Kate Johnson's first video editing experience, 1993.
Learning of Kate's illness was all the more shocking because it was easy to take her for granted, that she'd always be there. She made a collaboration seem effortless. Like the great actors who never made a false move, who would just BE — Cary Grant, Henry Fonda, Fred Astaire, Lillian Gish, Irene Dunne, Barbara Stanwyck — Kate was a natural. So she recognized this in and had an immediate affinity for Ann Sothern, the actress and early feminist about whom I wanted to make a documentary, THE SHARPEST GIRL IN TOWN, who was also a natural. It was a gratifying and daunting project and remains a work in progress, though it was the opening film at the Modern of Modern Art's Sothern retrospective and has successfully played at several festivals. It was also the last filming we worked on, twenty years after we began, interviewing Lily Tomlin for additional material.
Kate was both a resolute and calming presence in one of the few times I've ever exploded in a work situation. Kate was doing double time on the post-production of NEVER APOLOGIZE, Malcolm McDowell's tour de force performance film, being readied for Cannes, and another project to which she was committed. I had begun editing in Idaho for budgetary and logistical reasons, when my local editor moved away half way through the edit. The film was essentially Malcolm's one man show about his mentor, the iconoclastic Lindsay Anderson, which was dramatically effective on stage and needed to be emulated on screen. Because there was no audience reaction due to one camera not working, his impact had to be conveyed without tricks. Deciding to try a jump cut style in which I'd cut to a different angle whenever Malcolm — a brilliant impersonator — became one of his subjects (John Gielgud, Richard Harris, Bette Davis, etc.) — I worried the construct would be too obvious. It seemed to work with what we had done in Idaho but Kate was the first outside professional to view the material and the only person I could count on to finish the edit. She got it immediately without hesitation, enthusiastic about the style, which confirmed we could forge ahead.
"Never Apologize" featuring Malcolm McDowell, 2007.
Click to view trailer.
We had gone through extensive transferring difficulties while adding 200 visuals to the piece and were now finalizing the sound. Instead of the pristine final print we had achieved, the image on the screen on the costly sound stage on our first day was a blurry, scratchy black and white work print. What was this? How can we finalize the sound looking at this horrible image. The technicians argued this was the way it was done. Furious, I threw my jacket on the couch and blew up, demanding to get the studio's owner. I was red hot. Kate was startled. In a pause of my rant, she assured me this would be worked out. Because it was Kate, whom I trusted completely, my rage subsided. Kate took the reins carefully explaining to the owner what had happened, who, being the object of Kate's winning ways, apologized, asking for time to make the changes needed to project the final print. She saved the day.
Kate Johnson with Malcolm McDowell, 2019
This year saw the fruition of a long term project for which Kate was the catalyst. Being an avid collector of vintage movie posters— an under -appreciated art form — I've curated 15 exhibitions since 2001— 10 being dance movie posters. I wanted to create four posters that captured great dance scenes that had never been used as key poster art. And thought it would be ideal for art and design students to have a go at capturing the spirit of those sequences — with the best designs unveiled during the ART OF THE DANCE exhibit at the National Museum of Dance. Kate responded immediately and as a teacher at the Otis School of Design, was in a position to propose the project. She chose the 'Straw Hat' number from FOLIES BERGERE, which won the first Oscar for Dance Direction in 1935, featuring Maurice Chevalier and Ann Sothern, our favorite.
Her schedule, however, prevented it from happening immediately. No problem, I'll move to the second poster— the Ballroom scene from JEZEBEL, with Henry Fonda waltzing a humiliated Bette Davis. Being enthused by Kate's reaction, I was unprepared for the hesitation of museum curators and teachers, who thought the idea 'had possibilities' but would require much work to pull off. It looked doomed when I went back to Kate. It was a new semester…prepared the references; she presented it to her students. After a few weeks, she called that the most talented artist in the class really responded and thought it best to have him do it — forget a contest. We began the process but after a few weeks Kate bowed out, saying, 'Brant Yang is really good... This is your baby. You know what to do.' I kept her posted with progress pics but sensed by then, she had other priorities. I brought the final to her in the hospital. It captured the essence and style of the sequence — Chevalier and Ann dancing on top of a large straw hat, surrounded by a circle of dancing girls on the brim. She had picked the right artist. She looked at it, then at me, knowing it worked. Difficult as it was, Kate smiled." - Mike Kaplan
The Folies Bergère movie poster created by one of Kate's students.
"We were so blessed to have Kate in our lives and we are all going to miss her terribly. Her humor, intelligence, kindness, vision and talent has touched us all." - The Dark Bob
"She was so great. A tireless advocate and artist, and always a generous community member." - Michael Sakamoto
"Kate Johnson is/was brilliant in every way…" - Larkin Higgins
"her beauty and strength were alway evident when I saw her or came to have a brief exchange with her. She was lovely, in a most original use of the word and fierce as a creative force can be." - Paddy Campanaro
"Our work together spanned sixteen years, and throughout that time she was an invaluable source of guidance. The fact that she was the only editor I've worked with says a great deal about her talents. She was brilliant and unique and I will miss her."
- Hope Anderson
"A truly masterful film and digital design artist, she was as generous as she was talented." - Christa Forster
"Kate was such a wonderful, creative spirit and soul. Feel so lucky to have known her and so sad we’ve lost her, way too soon." - William Turner
"It’s hard to write while looking through tears-filled eyes.
I first met Kate Johnson in 1993, when she and her long-time colleague Michael Masucci had a second-floor video editing studio on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles. I was in grad school and very nervous about going to a professional editing studio. My video teacher told me I was bogarting the editing bay and had to go find another video facility. He suggested EZTV. I remember Kate right from the get go, with her killer smile and riot of red hair. She brought me to an editing bay where I laid out all my video tapes and pretended to know what I was doing. I think she saw right through me and came over to help me. From then on, I had the pleasure to work with Kate and Michael on so many projects and exhibits that have etched themselves in my memory.
In 1995 Kate and I worked on a mini documentary for the Getty Museum titled “Carrie Mae Weems Reacts to Hidden Witness”. A lovely little film that looked through the lens of students, artist and curators, examining a Getty photo exhibit on African Americans depicted in early daguerreotypes. This video is now archived in the Getty Research Institute and the UCLA Chicano Studies Archive.
My last venture with both Kate and Michael was a true labor of love. A two-year project that put into context all of the early artists who formed the collective known as EZTV. The exhibit was part of the 2011 Getty Museum city-wide initiative “Pacific Standard Time: Art in LA 1945-1980”. The show opened at 18th Street Arts Center and was titled “Collaboration Labs: Southern California Artists and the Artists Space Movement”. As part of the festivities, the Getty Center hosted an enormous evening gala, where Kate’s massive animated projections engulfed the entire museum plaza with images of LA artists flickering on the Getty’s travertine walls.
Kate's animated projections onto the Getty Museum plaza.
In an art community that connects itself via a variety of networks, Kate was a leader, an avatar, a goddess. In an essay I described her as a “digital diva” and asked her if she was ok with this title - she responded:
Alex I am deeply touched by your wonderful spirit and consideration. I am honored by you giving me the moniker of "digital diva". I don't know that I quite live up to that title but I am humbled by the spirit in which you have given it. And perhaps it shall be fun to be known as a diva in whatever way people read it :-)
I feel fortunate to have sat next to Kate going through hours and hours of tape. It was a front row seat to brilliance. I’m honored to have shared a few frames and fragments of a life that Kate helped stitch together. Fade out.
Love you," - Alex Donis April 2, 2020
David Raiklen and Kate Johnson
"A creative spirit of profound vision that changed the world and transcends all limitations.
Kate would literally shine with a soft warm glow like an aura, but visible. She could talk to anyone, from crazy artists to shopkeepers to executives to students to celebrities to royalty, put them at ease and charm them. She really cared about everyone and you could sense it from across the room. There was no artifice in this, she simply lit up the room with kindness and creativity." - David Raiklen
"Kate was a hidden linchpin of the LA arts world, and one of the most beautiful souls in it. May her memory be for a blessing..." - Peter Frank
"I send my best warmest muggiest energy to you, as we cannot connect physically...but as unusual, we are ALL connected in the Great Cosmic Life-the river runs, turns and we all come home to the ocean of Consciousness eventually. May your heart stay warm with all the beauty you created together, and may her work shine on as we continue to re-create ourselves...every day...every way. Om Shanti Om." - Marci Javril
"She will remain an inspiration and light for eternity." - Mike Meyers
"The world has lost one of its most beautiful, bright, brilliant and loving artistic lights. RIP dear Kate Johnson. Our hearts are broken, but your legacy lives on. - Victoria Looseleaf
“Kate Johnson was an excellent film teacher at the Otis College of Art and Design and inspired me to view acting and directing in a new way. She taught us about pacing and the psychological content of scenes.” - Katya Kan, a former student of Kate at the Otis College of Art and Design
Ira N. Kaufman, Michael J. Masucci, and Kate Johnson, 2014.
“I am selective with whom I collaborate. I knew when I heard both Kate and Michael do a presentation in the early 2000s, that we would end up doing just that on a project. One of the peaks of my artistic career was that collaboration on a movement/dance video Kate & Michael shot and Kate edited called “Burning Girl”. Kate loved to delve into the psyche of an artist’s mind and motivations. Not satisfied with a ‘surface story-line’ Kate wanted to know the sub-conscious drives behind a work. This was precisely why I chose to work with her. She demanded you work at your highest level, sourcing from your most honest place, your artistic choices. “Why am I doing that again?”, as a question of rigor, which the professor in her was there to remind me of. I appreciated that, as an outside eye is so invaluable in our field of live performance. When a dance artist leaves the cocoon of academia, there is a serious vacuum, especially in Los Angeles, as far as making your art. The chance to hone and develop your skills and receive valuable feedback and grow with collaborators is what we rely upon as mid-career artists. Kate was such a collaborator for me.
I have never met, and probably never will again someone with equal talent facility and ability to toggle between the worlds of video engineering and video creation. An artist and an engineer, Kate could see and understand that the sciences are INHERENTLY creative. And that we as artists are constantly doing research. You will be missed, my dear friend." - Ira N. Kaufman
"Through the deep sadness, beyond words, that I’ve been feeling about Kate’s passing, I find solace in my belief that the spirit is eternal. And I take some comfort that her memory and her art will live forever in the hearts and minds of surviving loved ones, friends and colleagues. And more over, her memory will live on even beyond all of our time here. She was one of those special people blessed with true beauty, intelligence with a natural compassion and love for her fellow beings. She fought the good fight. She was part of the solution toward a more humane, inclusive and successful world-round society.
I will always miss her and hold the memory of her loving presence in my heart. Rest in peace dear Kate." -
Victor Acevedo April 8, 2020
(For those on Facebook please read my complete message here)
"Kate Johnson was not only a brilliant artist, but a magnificent friend. Being around her I often felt dazzled, challenged, and inspired. I knew I was in the presence of greatness. She and Masucci helped bring together a community amazing thinkers, artist, and techies. I have always felt so fortunate for the time I have spent with them and the EZTV community.
I will be forever grateful for how Johnson helped me grow as an artist. It was an honor to have her in my documentary and to be apart of her projects, too. Thank you Kate, for the gift you were to the world and for all of your jaw dropping art." - Kate Crash
"I will always be honored to have been part of just a small glimpse of the Joy of being around Kate those Memories will always be a beautiful spirit reference I can smile to..." - Eric Acevedo
"I only got to meet Kate for such a brief moment but during that time I could see how much love she had and it was many mounds larger than mountains." - Mellissa Mayo
"I am thinking of you, lucky to know you."
- Gretchen Andrew
I have always thought that Kate and Micheal were the most important part of my academic career. So generous, accommodating and supportive with everything from feedback to networking to any kind or suggestion or pointer in another direction. I am truly devastated that we have lost Kate's kind and selfless, nurturing soul."
- Andrea Foenander
"She was and will always remain a beautiful mark on this world." - Makani Nalu
"Kate was the recipient of life's greatest gift of all, and will remain among the luckiest rapscallions on the face of the earth."
- Kit Galloway
"I just wanted to let you know how much you meant to me me and how much I respected your help and kindness."
- Paul Picasso Hollywood
"She was a magnificently impressive person, it is a too early loss." - Angela Hanka
My Sincere condolences-RIP Beautiful Kate Johnson.
Such sad news. - Simone Gad
Kate Johnson, Robert Gelman, and Michael Masucci at Burning Man, 1997.
"Bobby Gelman and Michael Masucci were both collaborators with LA SIGGRAPH and me since the early eighties. Unbeknownst to me, Bobby later got Michael and Kate involved with Burning Man. I just happened to be in the Black Rock desert of northern Nevada, when I stumbled on to Bobby playing his hand drum leading a procession out to burn the Man. I followed him as the pied piper lead throngs of people out to the Man. We ran into Kate and Michael. Kate turned around and saw the thousands of people getting a bit too close. She simply took a stance. Raised both of her arms, and in a very loud low voice said, “Sit!”. She lowered her arms, and the crowd, without question, immediately sat and got quiet. The fire-twirlers took up the space between the sitting-crowd and the Man. It was Kate's torch that lit the Man that year -- 1997. Another magical moment with Kate." - Joan Collins
Watch the video of Kate dancing and leading the procession at Burning Man, 1997.
(NOTE: Because this is Burning Man, there are lots of naked people seen in the video, be forewarned".)
"She was a strong and graceful presence in our dance community (being a dancer herself) and I will always remember her sweet kindness, her extraordinary talent and her beautiful spirit/person."
- Dulce Cappadocia
"I am soo sooo sorry. Our days together is one of the best memories I have." - Sepideh Rain
"Kate's beautiful spirit will live on...May her memory be a blessing."
- Dianne Holland
"I last saw Kate Johnson at the presentation she and Michael J. Masucci did at the Pompidou in Paris last year. As always, she was warmly receptive, radiant, totally engaged, generous, soulful...certain to be deeply missed by many. Some of her amazing work is shown here." - Michael Kurcfeld
“Every person I teach leaves a permanent impression on my heart and in my teaching. To teach a teacher is gratifying and so special, as we trade roles and learn from one another.
Kate was a well known and talented artist, filmmaker, publisher and educator..but her little hobby was music which she was shy to expose. Perhaps that is something she wanted to keep for herself. She loved to express herself freely in classical music and loved the challenges of it..which were so small in comparison to the wonderful things she did for the arts in her own profession. But her fire and pure emotion always took over when we worked on her improvisation. How I remember Kate the best was when she closed her eyes and totally played from something ethereal inside of her. She always put her own stamp on her music no matter what the piece. Kate was always cheerful no matter what trials she went through.
I was happy to have met Kate and to really help her musical spirit soar. I will always miss Kate.”
- Nancy Kuo, Kate Johnson’s violin teacher
Kate Johnson during a summer recital, 2013
Please watch an excerpt from her recital here.
"The luminous beauty of Kate’s soul stays with me. Thank you, Kate, for the way you showed up in this world. For the pure, open exchange of our friendship. Your sparkling smile and warm eyes filled with humor that still open my heart. Your curiosity, creativity, courage and caring that continue to inspire me. Kate broke new ground with her whimsical imagination, deep knowledge, initiative, perseverance and brilliance. And she saved the day for so many with her grounded pragmatism and devotion. She was both poetry and the clearest of prose. Her soft strength carried full power. She personified beauty. I’ll always feel her vibrant presence with love. Kate Johnson is infinite." - Laurie Yehia
"Kate left us today. She has been trying to get rid of the cancer from her body for almost 2 years. Eventually nothing worked. I didn’t get to have a real talk with her; She was already too far gone and we still had work to do. It never occurred to me that she would die.
Kate was everything: utterly beautiful, grandly intelligent, and above all a perfectionist. Artful and diligent. She (EZTV and Michael) created many enormous video projects like none others…to be splayed on walls and buildings, city hall and at the Getty, mostly celebrating the works and lives of others. But now she is the one who should be celebrated.
I met her in about 2004, seeking her help in editing and creating video clips to record and save my own performance work. We continued to do this for almost 20 years.
She rarely got to exhibit her own personal art works. One wonders what it would have been if she could have merged her own performative skills, dance and voice, with video.
Barbara T. Smith and Kate Johnson playing dress-up in opera coats, 2010
She left us, shockingly, all too soon. I have fleeting memories of watching the floats arrive on New Year’s Eve on cold Pasadena nights with her and Michael or playing dress-up with my Mother’s opera coats or travel times in Paris. All too few.
Now I want to hug her and say thanks, I want to sit and talk and hear more of her intimate stories, go for walks and lunch out and arrive at their massively cluttered EZTV studio ready to work. I am remembering that you don’t have to live a long life to live a beautiful one and that she did. Blessings Kate!" - Barbara T. Smith
"A great LA artist & soul." - Mike Mollet
"The Light, the Love, the Art that the two of you shared with each other & the community was truly grand." - Neal Taylor
"It is sad to loose great talent when so young." - Bruria Finkel
"I loved working with Kate., she has been the most incredible director I have ever worked with and she changed my life. I will miss her and cherish all the beautiful projects we did."
- Ariana Gallastegui, Kate's muse
" Kate is a creative engine of our digital media era. I made this video to honor Kate although it's not as grand as she deserves but I was thinking the glitches we had to deal with back in the day and how she'd have predicted the Artificial Intelligence I used to edit. I will miss her as long as I retain my memory. She was a gift and I was so proud of her evolution." - Maija Beeton (who taught Kate the first digital animation program she learned, back in the 1990s)
"I remember sharing with Kate how Buñuel explained the moral ethic of surreality, “Being free is not doing whatever you want, but acting in solidarity with friends you love and respect… the greatest freedom is being able to choose to whom you are bound.
Just as quantum entanglement proves the unity of the dimensions of space, time and energy in a single creation, surreality encompasses the unity of material reality and inner psychology. What drew me to Kate...was that spirit… which is at the heart of all real art going back to the cave paintings…" - Edward Lander
Candy Hammeras is the Owner of Hammeras Group and is a Patient Advocate who works closely with UCLA. Once she became aware of Kate's health situation, which was already at a very advanced stage, she instantly became an indispensable part of Kate's journey. They also became friends and began working together towards Candy's highly effective and critically important advocacy for cancer patients.
"I met Kate through a referral from her PCP. She had non-smoking lung cancer. I was able to get her an appointment with a renowned oncologist in Los Angeles within 3 days. By day 2, she required the ER with urgent admit to the hospital. I walked into her hospital room for the first time to meet Kate and I was taken aback by a regal young beautiful lady with long red hair. She was captivating and she was scared. We sat for a long time with her boyfriend and I promised I would do everything I could for her. The humble tears in her eyes were full of gratefulness. I later learned Kate was a successful artist, an educator, and an Emmy-winning producer. We became close friends over the following 2 years. Kate would produce the finale at my cancer concert [see below], she would write a documentary for me. She would speak with me at hospital meetings. Through Kate's radiation and chemotherapy, she never stopped her work. She was passionate about her career. I would watch Kate as she created during her work and it was fascinating to me. In the end, what I admired most about Kate was her quiet and thoughtful manner. She spoke with such quiet intelligence that you had to lean in to hear every word. And every word was worth hearing! Kate was a true partner to the Hammeras Group. She will be forever. I am at this point in my career because of Kate Johnson." - Candy Hammeras
In 2018, Mike Garson, long-time pianist for David Bowie, assembled a group of musicians including Latin Grammy Winner Gaby Moreno, to perform an evening of music in Santa Barbara, California, as a benefit for cancer research. The evening was produced by Patient Advocate Candy Hammeras. For the finale, the band was accompanied by video projection by Kate Johnson.
"Rest in power, rest in peace."
- Yayoi Shionoiri