Rae Johnson

8 June 1982 - 26 June 1982
Opening Reception 8 June 1982 8pm

East Gallery:


The paintings were executed between 1980 and 1982. They are depictions of the metaphors of the Visitation, Annunciation, and the Immaculate Conception.

A disturbing look at female archetypes
Rae Johnson’s canvases express anxiety and doubt Looming in joyless society

Christopher Hume
Toronto Star, June 1982

Will success spoil Rae Johnson? When her audience begins to take her large inchoate canvases seriously, will she? How will she respond when critics point out the influence of Picasso, Munch and contemporary ugly? And finally, what’ll she do when she’s invited to 21 McGill to give a talk on the subject of her current show at Mercer Union?

Titled Madonna, the exhibition is something of a tour de force. These eight oversized canvases take a disturbing and deeply brooding look at female archetypes. Although her subject matter covers a lot or feminist territory, it does not come from an artist who considers herself a feminist. The didactic element just isn’t there.

Johnson’s concerns could only be those of someone who has moved beyond the kind of optimism that normally leads to political action. for her. “it’s hard to feel joy in this society.”

“I’m not trying to be negative,” insists Johnson, “I’m just trying to express my anxiety and doubt.”

And so she has. The dominant image of her artworks is one of a female figure wrapped from head to foot wearing sunglasses. These haunting presences appear in their outlandish surroundings, caught forever in the middle of some unmentionable act. (Perhaps they’re wearing glasses to keep from seeing too much).

This is tough work to talk about. It comes from a source too deep within the artist’s subconscious for proper, rational discussion. Whereas a Judy Chicago would have approached the subject with the thoroughness of a scholar, Rae Johnson opted for the intuitive. Instead of exposition, this is expression. The show continues until June 26.