Pictured: Brian Johnson’s wall sculpture made from saguaro skeleton and dyed cotton fiber.
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“Your Life Purpose is your North Star in the dark night
as you navigate your canoe.  It is the compass by which your soul
directs your life’s journey,"
Itzhak Berry -The Gift of Shamanism

Your North Star

02/14/18

Shea Stanfield

Local 3-dimensional artist, Brian Johnson, finds endless inspiration in Arizona’s Sonoran Desert for his one-of-a-kind hanging wall sculptures. 

These magnificent pieces in the Shaman series evoke the spirits of Native American warriors; using dried saguaro skeletons as their foundational framework with hand-dyed cotton fiber, leather, natural stone and copper serving as the focal points of representational tribal breastplates, blankets, feathers, and amulets.

Born to an American military family in Germany, when Brian was 10 the family moved to El Paso, Texas where Brian grew up.  He credits his mother’s Native American origins to his affinity to the ancient, native Southwest cultures and their connections to making a living off the land.  Much in the same spirit, Brian has found his spiritual totem in the saguaro cactus.  Just as every living thing is a unique individual in its structure and story to tell, so are the spines of our beloved iconic saguaros.  These “Shamans of the Saguaro” speak through Brian’s intuitive creations.

Brian is a self-taught and an imaginative artist always creating something with his hands.  During his school days he developed an interest in working with fibers and tying various kinds of knots. This led to exploring weaving techniques and making dream catchers while he was in high school.  Brian was also involved in riding arena show horses and quarter horses winning a number of ribbons and trophies for his efforts.  It was during this time that he created custom tack by embellishing his horse’s reins, breast collars, halters and leads in the buck stitch style using white leather lacing. 

Having managed a large estate in El Paso for many years, in 1990 Brian felt it was time for a change and brought his property management skills to an expansive family residence in Scottsdale.   Brian lives nearby and has dedicated a room in his own home as studio space where, with round loops of hand-dyed cotton fiber, copper sheets, copper tubing, loose stones, saguaro ribs and true bone elk antlers, he creates his original 3-D wall sculptures.

Brian Johnson was invited to be a guest artist in the 2017 Hidden in the Hills Studio Tour this last November, and has been juried in for the second year at the Arizona Fine Art Expo,  which is located under the big white tents on North Scottsdale Road and Jomax, open now through March 25, 2018. Brian’s work is represented by Hogan Trading Company Store in Moab, Utah (www.hogatrading.com),  and Cellar 433 in Jerome, Ariz. (www.cellar433.com).   For contact information and additional images of his 3-D wall sculptures visit his website at www.brianjohnsonwallsculpture.com.  You just may find your “North Star” among his collection.

Contact Arts Columnist, Shea Stanfield, on flowingquill@yahoo.com.