Artist Denise Johnson stands
beside a hanging window at St. Francis Xavier University
on Monday. The window, which she made out of out of
recycled glass, will be part of an exhibit at a
conference on happiness and development.
The fine art of dealing with garbage
One person's trash is another's
inspiration at happiness meeting
ANTIGONISH - Most artists would be
offended if somebody were to refer to their work as garbage.
But not Denise Johnson. In fact, she
views the term as an accurate description.
The Lunenburg County woman started
transforming junk into eye-catching pieces of art 10 years ago
when she was a single mother living in Halifax who was tight
on funds but fueled by a desire to express a creative side.
"I used to take my son in the stroller
and just comb the city streets looking for materials, so I
noticed how much stuff was being thrown out," she said.
Over the next few days, Ms. Johnson's
work will be a staple attraction in an exhibit at the St. F.
X. Art Gallery running in conjunction with The Second
International Conference on Gross Happiness.
The purpose of the four-day event is
to challenge traditional development and measuring ways that
For this to occur, workshops and
seminars will address four key elements, including
environmental preservation, sustainable economic development,
cultural promotion and good governance.
The conference seems tailor-made for
Ms. Johnson, whose message draws attention to society's
tendency to discard items they feel lack value, all in the
pursuit of happiness.
"A lot of people experience a great
unhappiness, so they think that by getting new things all the
time that somehow they're going to be happy," she said. "In
the process, they throw things away - their family, their
friends, their garbage, even their precious items. They just
figure it's old and therefore get rid of it.
"Really, there's beauty to be found in
these things, we just need to view them in a new way. And I
feel like that's my gift - to see beauty where other people
don't see it."
The items Ms. Johnson contributed to
the exhibit showcase her work in glass windows, which has been
her focus for the past six years.
Ms. Johnson has developed a style she
refers to as "jigsaw mosaic," in which she incorporates
various patterns and broken glass into her work.
"My own personal experience with
working with (glass) is it's very uplifting and inspiring, so
I was hoping to inspire people with garbage," she said.
The work has become an effort Ms.
Johnson shares with her family. Her husband, Rory Munroe,
refurbishes the wood that frames the glass art, and their
three children lend a hand in finding the material being