A Catalogue of Imaginary Beings
By Serena Fox – Imagine a world of monumental mythical beings dressed in surreal costumes: people made of mountains, city streets, rough-sawn logs, or plumes of steam; people who wear houses, bird wings, crystalline geodes, or even the moon.
That was the vision of collage artist Johanna Goodman in 2015 when she embarked on A Catalogue of Imaginary Beings, a personal project inspired by magical realism, surrealism, and symbolism that explores the role of the individual in fashion, history, and the artistic imagination. Four years later, the project has grown into a series of moret than 350 playful and strangely iconic images, and has led to a New York Foundation for the Arts fellowship, commissions from National Geographic and the New York Metropolitan Transport Authority, and ad campaigns ranging from skateboards to West Elm home furnishings.
“I keep thinking it’s run its course, but it hasn’t,” says Goodman. “I have not run out of ideas, and I keep getting more interest from the outside world.”
A diverse artist, Goodman works in paint, ink, and digital collage, and she brings more than 20 years’ experience in editorial illustration and portraiture to the project. A lifelong freelancer based in Nyack, New York, she creates illustrations for newspapers and magazines, book covers, hotel chains, and product advertising. Her work has appeared in the New Yorker, Time, Rolling Stone, Le Monde, the Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian, and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. The Imaginary Beings are her current passion.
The basic concept is straightforward: a single figure—defined by head, arms, and feet—dressed in unusual objects and placed in a surreal setting. But the resulting images are both humorous and oddly archetypal and statuesque, like pop-culture totems.
Goodman takes photographs of everyday objects and landscapes, cuts them into pieces, and arranges them to “clothe” her characters in bizarre and beautiful outfits. She plays with cumbersome proportions, favors out-of-context facial expressions, and adds innocuous items like iPhones or coffee cups as if they were talismans. more>