Jacquelyn Jackson Johnston noticed the stray animal problem in her Little Haiti neighborhood as soon as she began working on her Faktura Gallery space. Curly-tailed feral dogs and fierce alley cats darted from behind overflowing Dumpsters and abandoned car parts. "I rescued the first dog about a month ago," says Johnston. She cleaned up and found a home for a little black-and-white spotted puppy. Then there was a kitten, followed by another puppy (from the same litter as the first one) that Johnston is fostering until she can find a loving home for the girl she named Lucky. Rather than ignoring the problem, or just complaining about it, Johnston is launching Faktura Pets, a program in which neighborhood strays will be taken in, cared for, and placed in new homes.
Inspired by her favorite book Inside the White Cube: The Ideology of the Gallery Spaceby Brian O'Doherty, Johnston strives to make a difference in her community through her art. "I don't think art should be removed from real life," she says. So she's working to bring members of the community together and get them involved. "Every day I feed another adult feral animal, but I don't have the means to take care of them all. That's the problem," Johnston sighs and takes a sip of iced coffee. "You know when you learned about Earth Day in elementary school, and they said if everyone just picked up one piece of trash, there would be no litter? If everyone just helped a little -- picking up a stray, giving donations to the Humane Society, or adopting an animal -- it would make a difference. This neighborhood needs to feel cared about."
Johnston wants to give a voice to "the little guys" who were not so lucky through her new photography installation and first solo exhibition, "Sniffing Plastic Roses," opening Saturday, July 16. The photographs of roadkill "romanticize the grim fate of many street animals in order to question the viewer about modern ironies, such as the tolerance of pain for beauty and the loss of everyday kindness in a high-speed world," Johnston states. The subjects include a squirrel in Boston, a cat in Coral Gables, a pigeon on South Beach, and a dog on the side of the road across the street from the struggling Miami Edison Senior High School. "That dog has been there for six weeks, while that pigeon was picked up within fifteen minutes," says Johnston. "And people wonder why that school is failing?"
"Every time I see something and think, 'God, I can't believe that,' I have to do something about it," she says. Johnston has been in touch with the Humane Society of Greater Miami and is hoping to coordinate an animal adoption event with the organization this fall. "Since I've been in Miami, I've seen such an appalling demonstration of inhumanity, but I have a lot of faith in art," says Johnston. "I'm inspired by people who try to make a difference, and that's the kind of person I want to become." -- Lyssa Oberkreser