My Arctic Wonderland series was inspired by a trip I made through the Arctic Circle Program. The future of the Arctic is the biggest problem the world is facing, and I have read a great deal of political and environmental commentary on its present condition.
The photos in themselves do not have a strong or different or compelling opinion about the Arctic. They just show you what it looks like. They are the backdrop I need to talk about how we are going to colonize and use or abuse this space.
The bulk of the work happens after the photos are taken. I originally wanted to make images with Sculpey figures, as I had done in the past. But the real people in the straight shots looked so out of place in the landscape already, that I thought the sculptures were redundant. I decided to combine photography with painting and other media instead. Some of the works have a celebratory aspect to them. For me this expresses how we barrel ahead without thinking about future consequences. Fireworks and confetti seemed like a good allegory to illustrate that idea. The cheerleaders are more self-referential. I was thinking about art-making for a cause; these artists are cheerleaders.
Black Box 2010
From the Arctic Wonderland series
chromogenic print, photo retouching dyes, acrylic ink, gouache and india ink, incised lines
70.9 × 106.6 cm
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa
© Sarah Anne Johnson / Courtesy Julie Saul Gallery and Stephen Bulger Gallery