born Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada 1976
Canadian artist and photographer Sarah Anne Johnson completed her MFA at Yale in 2004 with a thesis project entitled Tree Planting. This ambitious installation recorded her summers spent in northern Canada in which she engaged in the communal activity of reforesting as a means of income. In this project, Johnson combines straight photographs with photographs recording “tableaux,” scenes she created with little sculptural figures set in the landscape. These vignettes extend beyond the photographs she took during her summers in Canada, illustrating what Johnson experienced both visually and emotionally. Johnson conceived of the show project as an installation, forming a large narrative displayed on curved walls.
In her second extended series, The Galapagos Project, Johnson continued to draw inspiration from themes of idealism and nature, basing the project on ecological volunteer tourism in the Galapagos Islands. Expanding her mediums from straight photography and tableaux, the artist began to include independent sculpture and paintings in this project. Galapagos Project was financed in part by a grant from Yale and was displayed at the Winnipeg non-profit space “Plug-In” during the summer of 2006 and in an expanded version at the gallery during winter 2007. Johnson projected similar themes in her In the Forest exhibition in 2006.
Johnson’s third exhibition and project entitled House on Fire was shown at the Art Gallery of Ontario during the summer of 2009 followed by its presentation at the gallery. The project was funded by the Grange Prize, a prestigious Canadian grant she was awarded in 2008, and its installation was arranged by the Art Gallery of Ontario for their permanent collection. In this series, Johnson shifts her focus from ecologically-minded subjects to her own haunted past. Plagued by her maternal grandmother’s terrifying experimental treatment for postpartum depression, Johnson creates provocative bronze figures of her tormented grandmother and extends the imagery through painting over enlargements of family snapshots.