In the Spring of 2015, artist Heather L. Johnson took to the road on her Yamaha XT250 motorcycle in pursuit of her ongoing quest, In Search of the Frightening and Beautiful (ISFB), and rode through the United States, Mexico,Central and South America for ten months.
Upon her return to Houston, she began an artist in residency at Cherryhurst House and distilled her travel experiences into embroideries, watercolor paintings, large wall drawings along with writing on her popular ISFB blog. This new body of work is the latest chapter in her ongoing project and the focus of the exhibition.
A petite woman, Johnson encounters concern more often than encouragement when she reveals her plans for solo motorcycle travel into territories unknown. But the journey ignites her passion. By increasing her strength and speed, the motorcycle becomes an extension of the artist's body. When she stops along the road she sometimes leaves behind hand embroidered art works of motorcycle parts, accompanied by Spanish phrases describing experiences she has had on her travels thus far. She places the embroideries in select locations in the landscape with the hope they will be encountered, taken, and kept. Since the start of ISFB in 2013, Johnson has traveled over 38,000 miles and left 47 artworks in her wake.
While the embroideries, painstakingly made, serve as conversation starters and map markers, her large watercolor painting based on photographs taken while on the road unravel stories from the journey itself.
Cinematic images depict uncanny subjects ranging from a roadside brush fire to a family battling torrents of rain with a picnic umbrella; from a barbed wire-lined wallof concrete stained with streaks of blood-colored rust to a cemetery’s Virgin Mary locked in her own glasshouse; from a shipping container painted with ecstatic dancing people surrounded by piles of rubble to ascraggly tree whose ultra-long roots cling for dear life to a tall clump of earth. “This project is all about embracing spontaneity, random interactions and occurrences that testify to the ‘frightening and beautiful:’ thecoincidences, contradictions, and struggles that reveal the essence of human experience.
Born in 1969, Johnson has shown her work in galleries, museums and in the public realm throughout the U.S., Europe, Japan and Mexico. She has given lectures about her work at CalPoly University (San Luis Obispo, CA), Moravian College (Bethlehem, PA) and other venues, and has curated several exhibitions and collaborative projects, including Cracks in the Pavement: Gifts in the Urban Landscape, involving artists from around the world, and Love Letter, a collection of collaborative site-specific works presented in New York and Paris. She is currently based in Twentynine Palms, CA.
Cherryhurst House is open Saturdays and Sundays 12-5 (except holidays) The artist will be present to give tours of the exhibition.
For further info or press release contact Barbara Levine, Cherryhurst House Curator.