ARTmonday: Connie Johnson

I’ve been on the Cape a week now, but other than a beach jaunt with the boys on Saturday, I’ve pretty much done nothing but work (and vacuum; not that that’s any fun). So while I wish I could show you the artistic highlights going on ’round these really artsy parts, no such luck. Instead, I’ve dug into my personal collection and came up with Connie Johnson, who does fun and fashiony collages. I discovered her at the “Small Works” show at the Copley Society of Art in December 2005. I checked out her blog, and though she hasn’t updated it since last September, I was able to learn a bit about her work and grab some other examples.

First, here’s the piece I purchased at CoSo, which pre-dates the pieces shown here. I keep it propped up on my bedroom bookshelf with my chicklit : )

cj me“Wearable #13”

Johnson is self-taught, and makes many variations of whatever theme she’s focusing on. In 2003 she started doing monoprints with a vague idea of making skirts, which evolved into making collage figures with paper bag heads that she placed on the monoprints. Johnon works with found household papers such as sugar and flour bags, candy and pasta wrappers, torn scraps of wrapping paper, onion bags, and other trash, to create the outfits, complete with accessories. The backgrounds of many of these ladies are the short stories she wrote about them, which are posted in full on her blog.

conniejohnson lady 3Lady #3 “There Is No Prince Charming”


lady 6 scene resizeLady #6 “Bride”


conniejohnson lady 13Lady #13


conniejohnson lady 14Lady #14 “All Dressed Up and No Place To Go


conniejohnson  lady 38Lady #38


All Dressed Up“All Dressed Up and No Place To Go”


This next set is from the group Johnson labels “The Ladies Part 2.” No paper bags over the heads of these dames, so some of them don’t have any faces. Many of them have much denser written backgrounds than the first group.

conniejohnson blending in“Blending In”


conniejohnson the pearls“The Pearls”


conniejohnson  after he left #2“After He Left #2”


In early 2007 (I think), Johnson created interesting collages using roses made out tar paper, along with pieces found on walk, like garlic stems, birch bark and hickory seed pods.

conniejohnson  Icons 2“Icons 2”


The most recent work posted on the blog is a dress she found at a local clothing swap, that hung in her studio for a bit, before she transformed for a piece to submit for a show last fall at the Concord Art Association. As you can see, she’s incorporated tar paper rosesas well as mini artworks which she strung together as a necklace.

dress“Wedding Dress”

I wonder what she’s been up to lately. . .

ARTmonday: Elisa Johns Bouts of Excess

I love the paintings by Elisa Johns’ in Bout of Excess for their colors, flirtatiousness, and femininity. I am definitely drawn to works that portray two women, or women flaunting their sexuality in a playful, bashful or innocent manner. (I’ll have to scan my postcard collection of such paintings for you.)

Stephanie Walker, who owns Walker Contemporary and curated the show, points out that the two women in Johns’ “Rape of the Daughters of Leucippus” (the third one here) aren’t necessarily in a sexual relationship. I think that’s what I am responding to; they could be lovers, but maybe they are close friends, or sisters. There’s an intimacy with just a hint of sexuality; a promise, perhaps.

When I showed my husband the images, he asked of “English Rose” (the second one here), “Why is there a vagina in the sky?” I see that now. And I had just thought, “What a pretty, rosy sun.”

When I asked Stephanie what attracted her to the artist and these works in particular, she cited the way the artist handles the paint, that she uses oil paint in so many ways. And, although the images are obviously based on historical stories, she points out “they’re so L.A., contemporary and of-the-moment.”

One of my favorites is “Daphne and the Laurel Tree” (the last image), which, at 72 x 48 inches, is relatively large work. I’d love to hang it in the living room at our house on the Cape. I love the colors, and how the tree creates angel wings. She’s so Nadja Auermann at the apex of the ’80s, but warmer and more fun. More like Nadja Auermann meets Stephanie Seymour meets Kate Moss.

She said Cate McQuaid, a critic from the Boston Globe, found them to be sort of “Project Runway” gone awry. But Stephanie sees women that are “playing with fashion, while snubbing what they’re portraying, and pushing boundaries.”

Either way, let them eat cake!

On view at Walker Contemporary, 450 Harrison Avenue, Boston until the end of March.