Artist Interview: Kelly Johnston

Posted by Jenni Kirby - May 28 2021


“I always think of my art as quirky, I guess I’m a little quirky too.”


For Kelly Johnston assemblage art started as a puzzle full of unique pieces, and a desire to give new life to broken parts. “I have always had interest in mixed-media and textiles, which is what I did first before making assemblage art. I love collecting items and taking them apart to see what it looks like outside of its original use.”


The totems are how Kelly first started working in assemblage, most of which are based on Greek mythology. The initial stages of idea generation often begin with disassembling old, broken machinery and hunting for miscellaneous odds and ends. “There are so many interesting old parts, and that’s when I started looking at each individual piece and formulated new pieces.” Once the individual parts are selected, the challenge of assembling everything together begins. “You have to be a puzzle solver and open to whatever idea generates.” Whether from a dream or a sketch, as ideas organically evolve Kelly must shift from designer to engineer. “It’s a challenge to find out how to attach the pieces, like glass to metal. There’s so much that goes into creating a piece and a lot of people have no idea how long it takes to assemble.”


One of Kelly’s favorite aspects of assemblage is listening to how others interpret her art. “My psychology degree comes into play... it’s interesting to see how each couple will dissect my art.” Interestingly enough, she has noticed that men tend to dissect each piece and look at the parts individually, while women look at the creation as a whole and often assign it a gender.


While assemblage serves as a creative outlet for Kelly, it also serves as a reminder that as a society we often discard the old and opt for instant gratification. “My art takes pieces from the past and gives them new life, even just for a little while.” She hopes people will see her art and think more carefully about what they throw away and consider useless.