Stephanie Johnson Talks About Her Wilderness-Inspired Art

Ed Newman

This month the work of Stephanie Johnson is featured in the Zeitgeist Atrium. Johnson lives in the Gunflint/Arrowhead region in a primitive setting with no modern amenities. In other words, it is a throwback to the good old days of propane lights, a dog and many good books.
A self-taught artist, Ms. Johnson’s muse has always been wilderness and its minute to majestic inhabitants.  “I have been creating art for over 4 decades,” she says. “It is as much a part of me and my life as nature is.” In recent years she has been sharing her arts experience with her daughter, Angie Arden.  In 2012, they started the “Wolf=Flow” concept as a team and produced much of their work for the wolf art projects together at her cabin home.

EN: How would you describe the work your do?

Stephanie Johnson: Plein Air and organic.  Most of my work celebrates nature.  

EN: Where were you trained?

SJ: I have no formal training.  I work instinctively, creativity has come to me naturally.

EN: Where have you been showing your work?

SJ: I have had little experience with exhibits and exposure in the arts.  I have had a few showings of my work in local coffee house venues and have participated in a few art competitions, in which I occasionally was acknowledged.  I consider the first “Wolf=Flow” exhibit at the Zeitgeist earlier this year to be my (our) biggest accomplishment.

EN: What are your primary themes?

SJ: At this time nature and our concerns for protecting and preserving it.

EN: Where does your inspiration come from?

SJ: My inspiration obviously comes from my “backyard” which consists of wilderness, the wildlife that lives within it and freedom.  God generously gives through nature inspiration and subject matter.  I believe if you are truly grateful for what God has given us, he will give and give...

EN: Can you tell us about the Zeitgeist show... what, when, why?

SJ: We are very excited about our 2nd show at the Zeitgeist this year, “Wolf Flow: 2nd Drift” is a collaboration of art (my work) and poetry (Angie, my daughter) celebrating the wolf. The opening reception was Monday November 3rd (6-8pm). This show encourages respectful attitudes toward nature and we are hoping to inspire compassion for our wild canines. The work will be on display through November 29th.

EN: Is there anything especially unique in how you create?

SJ: What is unique about our creation for this show is that we are collaborating by relaying interpretation; what I mean by this is that I begin the process by seeing what comes out of the woodwork in its natural pattern.  Through painting, I integrate the grain into wolf figures and background scenes; then I pass it on to Angie and she translates my visual work through poetry.  Another unique feature to this exhibit is an opportunity for attendees to participate in a community poem!

EN: When did you realize you were going to be serious about art?

SJ: Do I take my art serious?  I take my cause serious and my contribution is my art.

EN: How did that come about?

SJ: The earth and all of its causes have been around for a long, long time.

EN: What kind of formal training have you had?

SJ: Again, I am self-taught... Monet-inspired.

EN: Is there a question you would like me to ask that will elicit something deeper about what you are about?

SJ: Yes, we would like you to ask us:  “Would you consider your views to be mainstream?  We hope yes, but we really don’t know.  We pose the questions through the work we do together, asking people if they want to be Stewards Of The Earth or Takers? - The Wolf: Wilderness Icon or Statistic?