The Man Who Drew Bunnies
It was January 13, 1995 when it happened. On that harsh winter evening there were multiple witnessess that claimed they saw a man dive into a body of freezing water to his death. The man’s body discovered a day later was ‘supposedly’ the last form of art performed by the late, estranged William Johnson. His death still remains a mystery today as no ever knew why he did it, there is only speculation. However, after a thorough investigation, the police found no answers and ruled his death as a suicide.
Raymond Johnson, most famous for his collages in the days of early Pop art was simply never a household name. Instead, the movie How to Draw a Bunny proclaims he was "New York's most famous unknown artist.” The movie explains this and so much more as the people “closet” to Raymond reflect how disconnected and different he was from society in his lifetime. The movie captures this and so much more as ...view middle of the document...
A good example of this in the film is how he shared his artwork. It was the late 1970s in New York, and unlike his Pop Art friends, Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, Raymond’s work did not find its way into galleries, but instead into the hands of random individuals that he accidently befriended or simply did not know. On any given day, someone in New York would open their mailbox to find packages that Raymond had sent them that was full of artwork created with materials from scribbled text, found objects, and textiles, into collages packed with subtle humor, rich pop iconography, and endless allusions to his own wider circle as a never ending riff on contemporary culture.
It was now the 1980s, and Johnson purposefully receded from view after being shaken in New York by a scary string of events. So he picked up, and moved his studio into a tiny house in Locust Valley. The suddenn move definitly strengthend his role as an outsider, maintaining personal connections via mail art and telephone largely in place of physical interaction. The movie supports this claim when one person interviewed stated, “Only a handful of people were ever allowed into his house in Locust Valley.” The film continues to employ Raymond’s elusive potrayal as an outside figure with the use of video that he himself hired someone to document in the late 1980s. The movie cuts to a clip of him entering a themed party, and it was just baffling and simply unsettling to watch him walk around and share interesting stories with people to only say in the next few minutes that everything he shared with them was a lie because he is being recorded. It was only a few years later that he performed his last piece of art by commiting suicide. I’ll finish by saying, the movie never really answered many questions surrounding his mysteious death, but only raised more questions and intrest of this distant, estranged man. However, the film was very successful in how it characterizes and cements Raymond’s identity as the artistic outcast of the 20th century as a man that never feared nor was phased to march to beat of his own drum, and that is ironically what makes his persona so interesting.