Make Out With a Midwestern: Jedediah Johnson’s 7 Best

Every artist has their go-to tool. For Jedediah Johnson, it’s Cover Girl Hot Passion. He’s never without a few tubes of the $8 lipstick.

Stocked with the lipstick, and a camera that captures 8×10 negatives, the Indianapolis artist has created a startling series of photos called “The Makeout Project.” [NOTE: he’s in Chicago right now, but he grew up in Indianapolis and said he still considers himself an Indianapolis artist.]

The premise is simple: Johnson gives himself a good coat of Hot Passion, kisses the subject and photographs the result. His aim, he said, is to give the viewer a snapshot in time. They fill in their own version of the rest of the story.

“There is no truth to what happens in this moment other than the one the viewer makes up,” Johnson said. “Different people make up different situations. I want people to build their own reality around these. My goal as an artist is to put something out there that allows you to explore with your imagination.”

A kiss is about love, he says, but also about fear: “It’s terrifying to put yourself out there, to try to kiss somebody for fear you’ll be rejected.”

A tip on viewing “The Makeout Project:” the sloppier the result, the longer the kiss.

“The thing that lets you know as a viewer is the lipstick,” Johnson says. “If the lipstick is really smeared, we kissed for a while. If it’s more defined, it was shorter.”

This week, Johnson pins his favorite Midwest make outs with us. If you can’t get enough, check out his work featured in a new exhibit running Jan. 15 – April 15 at Art Museo at the Intercontinental Chicago O’Hare.