When I was young, I visited the dinosaur exhibit at The NY Museum of Natural History. Objects, bones, information, and interpretation by the experts were arranged to link dinosaurs to modern reptiles. As a child schooled in realistic representation, I did not question the scenario placed before me at the time. Many years later, I would return and view the identical objects and bones, re-curated to tell an entirely fresh tale that linked the evolution of dinosaurs to modern day birds. This sparked a light of inquiry into the changeable nature of stories that remains with me to this day. How does a story reveal itself? Who gets to tell the story? How do we change the story? How many versions spin from a single incident or perceived truth? How do we drill into a story in order to understand it for ourselves? How do the unvoiced interject their truth into a particular narrative? I clearly trace this moment at the museum into a lifelong influence in the way I choose to teach, to write, to think, to curate, and to create.
I am captivated by the power of the visual storyteller to arrange, rearrange, add, and layer elements to shape a narrative, feed the imagination, evoke memories and emotions. As a visual artist, I began exploring this idea by developing panels that could be rearranged and interleaved. My process has since evolved to the construction, deconstruction and reconstruction of mixed media art to create fresh and often unexpected stories.
I don't work quickly. In fact, it can be a slow and thoughtful, even laborious, process. Sometimes, I have to wait on the work to reveal a new perspective. I accept that space of waiting as part of the process, and have learned to appreciate that each piece unfolds at it's own tempo, and in it's own time.
In other instances, a story takes on a life of it's own, unfolding so quickly and with such clarity that I cannot bring it to life fast enough. When this happens, I realize that I am not so much directing a story as simply giving it a voice. And I've learned to be okay with that, too.
I use many types of media and processes in my work--painted, printed, found and chemically altered papers, ink, waterbased dyes, Layers, transparencies, and interactions between media are vital parts of my process. Like memories and dreams, images and colors and ideas float across the canvas. I know when I am finished with my part of the work--when it is complete and finished in my own eyes. But I will always believe that the ultimate story is born in that spark of connection between an artist and a viewer. I tell my story. The viewer makes fresh interpretations, discovers details, layers their own life experiences over the image. A richer, more meaningful message emerges. Each piece I create ultimately becomes a never-ending tale.
View Johanna's work at The Hub on Canal