Rainbow Love by Cath Johnston

Cath Johnston’s interactive installation Rainbow Love gives a new twist to the term ‘tying the knot’, addressing the topical issue of same-sex marriage.

Rainbow Love is an interactive, evolving sculpture by Cath Johnson, now on display at the new White Box Gallery at Courthouse Arts. Through this work, Johnson advocates same-sex marriage law reform and aims to raise awareness of gay/lesbian issues, particularly in regional areas where people may experience isolation and discrimination.

Cath Johnston Rainbow Love
Cath Johnston, Rainbow Love.

Viewers are invited to select a ribbon (made from bed sheets), write a message on the fabric about love, and then attach it to the wire frame. Johnston hopes that as people engage with the work, they will reflect on how ‘love’ is understood, expressed and valued in our society.

“The symbolism of ‘tying the knot’ represents an affirmative action for change, creating active, individual participation as part of a larger community movement for change,” Johnson says. “The deconstructed sheets symbolise comfort and consummation. Eventually ‘LOVE’ will be covered in tens of thousands of rainbow coloured ribbons, taking on the shape, texture and energy of all those who contribute, a unification of hopes and dreams.”

Last year, Johnston received a Regional Arts Fund grant to create the installation piece and it was launched at the Ararat Regional Art Gallery in November 2010. The colourful installation has already toured numerous country towns including Stawell, Ararat, Horsham, Daylesford, Bendigo and Ballarat, and will tour other rural areas after the Geelong showing.

Johnston says she was touched by the Geelong community’s reaction to the work on the opening night. “Four of the young GASP (Geelong Adolescent Sexuality Project) people stood up and braved the room to pour out their hearts and hopes, and it humbled me and brought tears to my eyes. I’m so glad Rainbow Love is touching people in such a positive and reinforcing way.”

Cath Johnston Rainbow Love
Cath Johnston, Rainbow Love (detail).

She was motivated to create the sculpture through her own personal circumstances and a desire to create social change.

“I am completely in love with my partner and our large spirited family of six kids. One day we want to be legally married and we are waiting until Australia’s laws change,” Johnston explains. “I will no longer accept the notion of second class citizen. I just thought if people could see the love we have, how special and pure and unconditional [it is], they would no longer see through eyes of prejudice.”

“Love really is the answer to overcoming any of the world’s major issues or challenges. It’s a simple truth and I wanted to try and manifest it in its purest simplicity, and to include the spirit of all who contribute to the artwork.”

Cath Johnston Rainbow Love
Cath Johnston, Rainbow Love (detail).

As the sculpture has evolved, with more ribbons and messages accumulating, Johnston has had to relinquish ownership of the work. She refers to herself as simply the builder. “All who have contributed their hearts and words have a stake in this work. As messages accumulate so does the power to effect real change and the realisation that love really can conquer all.”

Johnston is passionate about the interactivity and tactility of sculptural installation. She creates sculptural, installation and photographic works, using techniques of repetition and scale, to comment on the contemporary human condition. Her work is often confronting as she explores concepts about family, reproduction and fertility, and the isolation of humanity in the corporate machine.

Also on display in the White Box Gallery is a collection of hand stitched ‘baby bags’, leather handbags moulded in the shape of babies, titled ‘I’ll have one in each colour’. It is smaller version of Johnston’s installation, In thine own image, which takes a swipe at the plight of the modern child as an object of desire through the overt sexualisation and exploitation of consumerism.

Cath Johnston I'll have one in each colour
Cath Johnston, I’ll have one in each colour.

Johnston is a full time artist based in Ararat. She has degrees in Fine Art and Psychology and worked in London as a graphic designer for five years. She was a finalist in the Linden Postcard Exhibition earlier this year, as well as the Noosa 3D Travelling Scholarship, the National Artworkers Award and Churchie Emerging Artist Award (QCA) in 2010.

You can find out more about Cath Johnston’s art on her website www.cathjohnston.com

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