Artist Statement and Biography
I define my practice as Interdisciplinary. In my art I combine a multitude of elements in order to encourage dialogue between the viewers and the work, frequently challenging the viewers to explore with me ideas of identity, ancestry and cultural practice.
In the topics and themes I examine through performance, sculpture and or installation and sometimes all of the above; I aim at creating a space where the viewer is confronted with thought provoking visuals, sounds and scents. Often challenging the viewer to investigate their own Identity, as well as examining the relationship that their ancestry and cultural practices relates to that of mine.
Although my methodology is quite consistent, the materials that I consider with each project are crucial in determining the message that I intend to deliver. My work often juxtaposes aspects of traditional aboriginal art forms and contemporary work.
Elmiet (2010) was an example of creating the tension between the artist and the viewer all the while encouraging public participation. My next body of work will examine the present generations urgency to ascertain the relationship between Aboriginal person and the natural resources employed in traditional art production.
Ursula Johnson holds a BFA (2006) from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, where she studied photography, drawing and textiles. She also studied Theatre at Cape Breton University. Johnson descends from a long line of Mi’kmaw Artists, including her late Great-Grandmother, Caroline Gould, from whom she learned basket making. In 2010 she curated Klokowej: A 30-Year Retrospective commemorating Gould’s contribution to the evolution of Mi’kmaw basketry.
Ursula Johnson’s approach to basketry is typical of her transformational practice. Rather than simply imitating traditional Mi’kmaw basket forms she uses traditional techniques to build subtly non-functional forms—objects that are clearly traditionally based yet raised to a metaphorical level of signification, as works of art. Several of her performances, including Elmiet (2010) and Basket Weaving (2011) incorporate basketry as a key element.
Her background in theatre is evident in her public performances. People who attend Johnson’s performances are often surprised to find themselves no longer spectators, but actors in a social situation. Instead of the private, contemplative response we usually expect from the encounter with a work of art, we become participants in collective interpretations and collaborative actions.