Black Cloud (after Sarah Anne Johnson)

Sarah Anne Johnson "Black Cloud" (2008)

Sarah Anne Johnson, Black Cloud, 2008. Acrylic on inkjet print, Framed: 70.5 x 55.3 x 2.2 cm. Art Gallery of Ontario, Purchased with the assistance of Michael F. B. Nesbitt, 2009. Image courtesy
Stephen Bulger Gallery, Toronto, Julie Saul Gallery, New York. © Sarah Anne Johnson

See her standing
by the sink
            a black cloud
her face.

How can she see
her hands?

My mother
played airport with us
and we sat in chairs
facing forward
pretending to be waiting
for a plane.

In the lecture hall,
my professor
is telling us
            about international competition.
He says
there is no win-win
situation, but
I am not listening.
instead at the girl in black
sitting in front of me. See her
with cheekbones
            like slivers of ice. Calorie
counts of apples and eggs—
            like a picture frame around my page.

Man hands on misery to man, Larkin
            said. It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Back in the kitchen, the black cloud has
dissolved into a million Christmas lights
that only I can see. It’s as if my dress
is on fire.  

From Poetry Editor Molly Jean Bennett:

Canadian artist Sarah Anne Johnson’s “Black Cloud” is currently on view at the Met Breuer in a show called Everything Is Connected: Art and Conspiracy. The exhibition, which features seventy works by thirty artists, explores conspiracies and government plots—real and imagined—between 1969 and 2016.[1]

Johnson’s work in the show takes a multimedia approach to the lingering psychological effects of her grandmother’s unwilling participation in the CIA’s MK-ULTRA project in the 1960s. In order to study the use of mind control in interrogations, project administrators gave patients psychotropic drugs, hypnotized them, and in some cases subjected them to sensory deprivation and verbal and sexual abuse. Johnson’s grandmother was told she was being treated for postpartum depression.

Everything Is Connected will be up until January 6, 2019. 


[1] Fox, Dan. “Everything is Connected: Art and Conspiracy at the Met Breuer.” Frieze, November 2018. Accessed November 18.