‘Heart-Turned-Inside-Out Poems’ is a collection of poems by Cheryl Johnson-Odim, Rashid Johnson’s mother, accompanied by a selection of his drawings from a 2020 sketchbook and a far-ranging conversation between mother and son that took place in April 2023. The book is based on an updated version of Johnson-Odim’s poetry collection ‘Other Women Before Me’ from 1985. Through 42 diverse, compelling and deeply personal poems, Johnson-Odim explores themes that touch on profound experiences of race, womanhood and political struggle.
‘Other Women Before Me’ was first published in a limited edition run of three hundred copies by the Poetry Factory Press in Chicago in 1985, the year Rashid Johnson turned eight years old. Along with the original introduction by poet, novelist and screenwriter Sandra Jackson-Opoku, the present publication includes almost all of the poems from ‘Other Women Before Me,’ written between 1966 and 1984, as well as a few, more recent poems. Rashid Johnson selected ‘Other Women Before Me’—along with titles by the likes of Amiri Baraka, Nikki Giovanni, Claudia Rankine and Sylvia Plath—for a reading area that accompanied his 2022 exhibition ‘Sodade’ at Hauser & Wirth Menorca.
The cover of this carefully designed and uniquely bound publication beautifully highlights a detail of Rashid Johnson’s captivating work ‘Untitled Seascape Drawing’ (2022), which was also on view in his exhibition in Menorca. The striking combination of dark blue, black and white, complemented by a silver foil-printed title on the dust jacket, gives the book a collectible feel. Paired with Rashid Johnson’s drawings, the poems open up new ways of looking at his work, particularly his seascapes and boats, as well as the Anxious Men series.
Writing these poems, in fact, helped me to push forward, to stay the course.
The intimate conversation between Cheryl Johnson-Odim and Rashid Johnson featured on the blue pages in the middle of the book recounts the mutual influence between mother and son and sheds light on how their creativity was shaped. Through anecdotes from their personal histories, it also offers a glimpse into Rashid Johnson’s upbringing, touching on themes of self-identity, social recognition and exposure, as well as reflecting on their experiences as Black individuals and creatives in the United States.
Cheryl Johnson-Odim was born in 1948 in Youngstown, Ohio, and grew up in New York. She received a Ph.D. in History from Northwestern University in 1978, and co-founded the Coalition for Illinois Divestment from South Africa in the early 1980s. In 1995, she became chair of Loyola University Chicago’s History department and a provost at Dominican University in River Forest, Illinois in 2006. Additionally, she was on the central organizing committee of the Women’s March Chicago in January 2017.
For me, your poems were guides in a way. Guides that freed me to be creative and know that it mattered.
Born in Chicago in 1977, Rashid Johnson is part of an influential cadre of contemporary American artists whose work employs a wide range of media to explore themes of art history, individual and shared cultural identities, personal narratives, literature, philosophy, materiality and critical history.
On 11 December 2023 Cheryl Johnson-Odim will read selections from ‘Heart-Turned-Inside-Out Poems’ at Hauser & Wirth New York, 18th Street.
Book Release: ‘Heart-Turned-Inside-Out Poems’ Poems by Cheryl Johnson-Odim Artwork by Rashid Johnson Release date: 5 December 2023 Book design by Bonbon (Zurich) English; softcover with dust jacket 96 pages including 17 illustrations, 200 × 300 mm ISBN: 978-3-906915-81-4 £38/ $45 / €42 / CHF 42 / HKD 375
Art Plugged is a contemporary platform inspired by a relationship with the broader arts communities. We provide our audience with curated insight into the world of art, from exhibitions to artist interviews and more.