Brooke Johnson | Invention of Make-Believe

Opening Reception: Saturday, 13 January at 1:00 p.m.

Where does the mind go when it wanders? In the enchanting world of art, there exists a genre that transcends traditional boundaries, capturing our sense of wonder through a collection of sculptural stories crafted from found objects, both natural and man-made. Brooke Johnson delights us with this form of artistic expression by elevating discarded remnants to a place of prominence, weaving narratives that bridge the gap between the ordinary and the extraordinary.

Inspired by the discarded fragments of our daily lives, Johnson embarks on a journey of discovery, scavenging for materials that carry untold stories. Twisted branches, weathered stones, discarded machinery, and forgotten artifacts become the raw materials for these captivating sculptures. The inherent histories of these found objects become integral to the narrative, creating a dialogue between the artist, the materials, and the observer.

This unique approach to sculpture not only challenges conventional artistic norms but also serves as a poignant commentary on our throwaway culture. By incorporating both natural and man-made elements, Johnson forges connections between the human and the natural world, prompting viewers to reevaluate their perceptions of beauty and value.

In this collection of sculptural stories, the fusion of disparate elements becomes a visual symphony that evokes a profound sense of wonder. Each piece invites contemplation, encouraging viewers to marvel at the creative alchemy that transforms discarded fragments into objects of fascination and beauty. It is an exploration of the overlooked, a celebration of the extraordinary within the ordinary, and a testament to the boundless possibilities that emerge when imagination meets the remnants of our world.


Artist’s Biography

Brooke Johnson is a self-taught visual artist, This exhibit is, for the most part, a collection of sculptural stories, inspired by, and incorporating found objects, both natural and man-made.

Brooke’s principal vocation is acting. A veteran of stage, screen, and radio, she graduated from the National Theatre School of Canada in 1987. She has played in large and small venues across the country, has premiered many original Canadian plays, and has performed select roles in the classics. She has been nominated four times for the Dora Mavor Moore Award for outstanding lead performances in Toronto. In 2007 Brooke wrote a solo autobiographical play, Trudeau Stories, which she since has performed from coast to coast. She has two Canadian Screen Awards for roles in Television: the title role in Dangerous Offender: The Marlene Moore Story, and Angie in the CBC mini-series, Conspiracy of Silence. Brooke was also awarded Best Actress for the film, Finn’s Girl, at the Festival del Mar in Majorca; and with the other actors in Atom Egoyan’s feature film, The Sweet Hereafter, Brooke received America’s National Board of Review Award for Best Ensemble (1998).

During the summer months Brooke lives aboard a Grand Banks Trawler, voyaging somewhere on the waterways of Ontario (keeping an eye open for sticks and stones), with her partner, Adrian, and two ship’s cats.


Artist Statement

My art exploration sprouts from a passion for tinkering, constructing, repairing, fixing. I work on each piece until I find the nut of a story, and then find various means to enhance it. The creative process is play–through observation, discovery, questioning, trying, failing, and trying again; and it is similar to rehearsal in the theatre. And while the sculpture creation is a solo pursuit, I find there is a collaboration that comes from revamping mechanical parts or incorporating fragments of rock and root to something malleable, like wax. The workbench is a place to haggle openly with a marine transmission dipstick, discuss possibilities with a pinion, and argue with a jumble of sticks. The collaboration is between something man-made, something of the earth, and me–and out comes a story.

My process depended on the piece—but often I would start with an object. I found a great deal of inspiration in Northeastern Georgian Bay when we were there on our boat. Most of these creations had their genesis there. I explored the shorelines and islands and sometimes found either driftwood or water-logged chunks from old pier constructions, or a piece of deadfall with an intriguing shape. I would clean the piece and sit with it for a long time (in some cases, years), imagining what it had been, who might have lived in it…and what it might become. That was true with The Sandhills, Outport Fishing Stage, Gotcha, and the Kraken. Other objects become a starting point because they are suggestive of something beyond their original mechanical purpose–like the bronze housing of an old marine water-pump. To me it looked like two big eyes in a robot’s head, and that was the birth of what became Admiral Oberdorfer– the hat on his head was originally the nosecone of a marine outdrive.

I generally don’t begin knowing what I am making, nor with an idea I want to express. At some point while I’m working at whatever it is, it becomes apparent where it could go, and the idea of what it could express blooms out of that. Once an idea has taken hold, I might search again for specific materials: for example, for the Outport sculpture I needed tiny sun-bleached hardwood twigs (as softwood would break too easily), which meant several days of voyaging to search different shores. I collected tiny pieces in various small bins. With the Chameleon, I started with two bare, twisted pieces, and fashioned a wonky ladder with wooden skewers as rungs, and decided it could lean against the bit of tree I had already found that had a hole from a previous branch…

Lucia began with the Shoe Lasts in the late March of 2020, when no one really knew what was going on, and we had to do the best we could. I didn’t know who was going to come out of those shoes, but as I had just returned from Portugal and was in 2-week isolation, my experience of doing laundry in the bathtub with the madness outside translated into this character who was momentarily lifted out of her drudgery by listening to the climactic scene in Lucia di Lammermoor. The armature of the figure that I had affixed to the shoe lasts became enraptured, swaying, and then I added the papier mache. I hung her on her side so that her clothes would dry in motion.

In all cases, the process was finding and imagining and then seeking, and then more conjecture, then trying (and failing) then discovering and finally, eureka! (the word eureka! must always have an exclamation mark.)

On View


January 13, 2024


March 30, 2024


Artist: Brooke


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