Juried Art Show Opening at Allied Arts Gallery in downtown Bellingham.
Friday, September 2, from 6 until 10 pm.
This show continues through September.

Eight of my new assemblages and four earlier works will be shown during the month of September, along with three other artists. On opening night, sometime between 6:30 and 7:00 pm, we’ve each been invited to share comments about our artwork: sources, technique and inspiration.

Here is a little preview of the new assemblages and the talk I’ve prepared (which I’ll be delivering Friday night, so don’t read this until afterward, if you plan to be there):

I grew up in Seattle and moved to the Bellingham area in 1980. Those are the only two places I’ve lived. My travels outside this area have been rare. As though a sense of place were a language, my art and poetry have nothing to represent, no subject matter, except the Pacific Northwest–because I have no other true references. If I were from Utah instead, the colors I’d use might be bright and stark like the landscape of the canyons, rather than the earthy, muted range of the Northwest’s tangled underbrush. I love the Pacific Northwest. Everyone here does. I’ve been in this area for what I call forever, which is a rare thing to say these days for someone over fifty years old–when most people have at least traveled outside the western half of North America. I think this rootedness of place gives me a specific perspective that finds its way into my art and poetry.

These assemblages are dedicated to the memory of my dad, Ken Johnstone, who was an electrical engineer. He was an inspiration to me for two reasons. The first: When when my dad began an engineering major at the University of Washington, I started kindergarten. There were five kids at home, all within eighteen months of one another. Working up to three jobs at a time, he supported his family while pursuing his degree. The year I graduated from high school, he graduated from the university, and by that time there were seven children. So he showed me that working at something for what might seem like forever can eventually prove a positive venture. I’ve learned about art all my life, though I didn’t go to school for a degree until I was forty. I taught myself about many art mediums and their techniques, but my education added a broader understanding of what art can be.

The other inspiration happened after my dad died a few years ago. He left a few small containers of old electric parts from the television and radio repair he did part-time while he was a student. Since he was color-blind, and the components were color-coded, I used to help him by picking out the right color combinations for the capacitors and resistors he needed. So I was glad to have the boxes, and have often used their contents in artworks. I see them as colors rather than what their original purpose was, and as a contrast with elements from the natural world.

My hope is that the materials in these assemblages will continue to reveal details and relationships the more they are viewed. The variety of items, and the way they wind around each other,
are intended to represent place through color, explore contrasts, create patterns, as well as simulate some sort of balance through the medium.

Much of the paper used in the assemblages is handmade. I taught myself papermaking by reading books and making things up as I went along. Paper in the assemblages is made with cattail fluff from the pond in back of Egress Studio, some with dandelion petals and seeds from the pastures, some is made from pond scum or, rather, spring’s green algae. One has an old robin’s nest mixed up in it, mud, sticks and all.

The assemblages use small objects gathered from the Noon Road place where I’ve lived since 1987: things that get dug up while I’m working in the garden, stuff that falls from the trees, things that have been hanging around on a shelf for twenty years, or were shoved up from underground by the ice thawing in the pasture. They find their way into the assemblages. Wires, nails burnt off posts in a bonfire, pieces of my old computers, broken sections of this and that. And stuff Jim and I find on the streets around town, like shiny things run over in the middle of the road, or those tiny parking lot jewels. I don’t go looking for these things, but pick them up as they find me.

Each one contains something that appeals to my aesthetic sense. They make me want to put together something like a visual poem, or short story, which I hope you will enjoy.

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