Building community through art

Jennie has been a creative person her whole life. She has always loved visual art, dance, literature, poetry and music. After receiving her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree she moved to British Columbia and quickly fell in love with the mountains, ocean and mild rainy winters. Motherhood challenged her to dedicate time to her artistic practice, and she began her professional practice when her youngest son was nearing two years old. Outside of her own studio practice making mixed media quilts, she works in the culture and heritage sector as a Programme Manager. This part time work has helped Jennie build up her skill set in marketing, creative thinking and community building. These skills continue to enhance her artwork and compliment that other crucial component of being an artist; the ability to self-market and promote. 

A diverse studio practice

Jennie is currently finishing up a small body of work at liminal states of being. While the amount of pieces in the series is small, totaling about six, the size of each piece is quite large. She has greatly enjoyed working larger and hopes to have the last pieces completed by the spring. She is also participating in the Stride Burnaby Arts Festival running from January 16th to 30th. The work for this festival marks Jennie’s first foray into installation. Her piece is called Gimme Shelter, and it is a 12 by 12 foot wide blanket fort. It has been designed to allow participants to experience the nostalgia and comfort of being under a blanket forth. Given the turbulent times that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought us, Gimme Shelter is a respite. Jennie will have this installation available for other festivals and galleries as well, and hopes to spread the love of this project to as many community members as possible. To experience Gimme Shelter, viewers can sign up through her social media links. 

A day in the studio for Jennie is never the same twice. She gave up her home studio in March of 2020 when her husband needed the space to work from under COVID-19 restrictions. Now she rents out her housing complex’s community room, typically spending five hours there per session with a small lunch break. When she does work from home she is able to prepare pieces during the day, whether that requires paintings, photo transfer or sewing, and often does her hand stitching work in the evenings or afternoons in a more relaxed atmosphere while spending time with her family. As her work evolves, Jennie will be looking into short term studio rentals so that she can dedicate a solid five to six hours a day for at least two days a week to art making. 

Connecting nature, spirit and creation

Growing up on a dairy and maple syrup farm in rural Quebec allowed Jennie to have a close connection to the changing seasons, the grounding of sitting beside a stream or walking in the forest, and an appreciation for homegrown food. Her childhood began a deep connection to nature and it has only grown with time. Despite loving city life with its access to arts and culture, she lives on Burnaby Mountain surrounded by trees, creeks and a variety of wildlife. Her relationship with nature is also a spiritual connection. She marks the seasons, solstices and equinoxes and has studied nature deities in several cultural belief systems. This relationship is reflected in a large portion of her artwork, for example her lasting love and fascination for birds led her to two years of making a body of work about crows. 

Everything that Jennie makes as an artist is created with the intention of sparking dialogue with the viewer. She takes that responsibility seriously and believes artists need to use their voices to reflect the times in which they live. Climate change is one of the largest threats humans collectively face in the current era. If an artist feels called to convey this threat in their work then she applauds that conviction. However, she does not expect that artists should feel obligated to weigh in on social issues in their work if they do not feel called to do so. There is room for all kinds of art, and you can care about the climate and take action in many different ways, not just through your artwork. 

You can find more of Jennie’s work by visiting her website at https://www.jenniejohnston.com, which includes her portfolio and links to all of her social media channels.