Vicki Lee Johnston

b. 1952

Barbed wire is a thin jagged metal line that has had enormous impact on the landscape of the American West. An American invention patented in the 1860’s, barbed wire has been used as lines in space to break up the American West. Put up with no regard, nor respect, for indigenous peoples or wildlife, barbed wire blocked access to those who once roamed freely, while confining transplanted species that destroyed native plant life. Native Americans soon called barbed wire – “Devil’s Rope”.

Barbed wire is now used all over the world in the most awful places – prisons, refugee encampments, and the like. The fact that barbed wire intends to hurt any body coming into contact with it, that inflicting pain is acceptable to all involved who manufacture, sell and install barbed wire, is amazing to me. My barbed wire sculptures have organic personalities – they look like grass blowing in the wind, like fur or hair, like nests, and groups of trees yielding to Nature’s forces. Others resemble an open book.