Today we’d like to introduce you to Heather L. Johnson.
Every artist has a unique story. Can you briefly walk us through yours?
I grew up moving around a lot, with big cultural and geographic changes defining each move. While this bred a certain level of flexibility and openness to new experiences, it also cultivated in me a special kind of restlessness that is felt by those who have no place to identify permanently as “home”.
Most of my adult life I’ve spent fighting this restlessness through repeated efforts to grow roots in places where I had relationships and career opportunities. Inevitably I would grew bored after a number of years in each situation, the attraction to the “new” asserting its tedious and predictable pull. I’d squash the desire to move as long as I could out of a sense of obligation. But the malaise would always stick around.
Then about 12 years ago, I learned to ride motorcycles – a discovery that lit my wanderlust afire in a different kind of way. The bike taught me to love movement as an enabler of, rather than a barrier to living a high-quality existence. When in motion, a motorcycle and its rider cut through space like a knife, exposed and unprotected, physically a part of the environment through which they pass. Functioning as a conduit, the motorcycle is a powerful connector, a means through which I look for ways to understand the world around me.
Through the use of a wide range of media employing both written and visual language, my work embraces an outsider’s perspective, striving to inspire questions about where we are, physically and psychologically, in relation to others and our surroundings.
Please tell us about your art.
My current project, “In Search of the Frightening and Beautiful”, brings visual art and writing into the realm of the long-distance motorcycle journey. On the road, I take pictures, talk to people, and record experiences, leaving works of art in people’s hands or in the landscape in a spirit of exchange. These artworks take the form of small embroideries I hand stitch on the road in cheap motel or hostel rooms, or in public town squares. For periods of time, I stop and transform my findings into new bodies of work in a broad range of media: embroideries, paintings, drawings, photographs, essays and more.
Conceived through the act of riding a motorcycle, ISFB embraces risk and vulnerability to record and testify to the “frightening and beautiful” – to the coincidences, contradictions and struggles underlying the essence of human experience. It’s my hope that the work I make and the experiences I describe help blur the psychological boundaries we so often construct and use to isolate ourselves from one another.
Do you have any advice for other artists? Any lessons you wished you learned earlier?
I draw my inspiration from experiences, many of which have required a great deal of focus, dedication and tenacity to acquire. Living as an artist is not an easy path, but the freedom inherent in the life I’ve created for myself has been worth the sacrifices in income and security – so far, anyway.
If I could have done anything differently, it would have been to toss out a lot earlier ideas, or suggestions from others that I am not capable of something. (I.e., that I couldn’t ride a motorcycle due to my small size, or because for the most part, women didn’t or shouldn’t do such things..)
How or where can people see your work? How can people support your work?
My work is most easily accessed, seen and/or read via my website at https://www.heatherljohnson.com/, or https://thefrighteningandbeautiful.org/. Folks can also follow me in Instagram @lilbloody.
I have just completed a mural which can be seen through this summer (2019) in the GreenStreet walkway downtown, inside the block of Main, Fannin, Dallas and Polk Streets. The mural was commissioned by GreenStreet and House of Blues Houston to promote House of Blues’ extensive folk art collection, much of which hangs on walls throughout the venue. I recently wrote about this work here: https://www.heatherljohnson.
- Website: https://www.heatherljohnson.com/
- Email: heather@heatherLjohnson.com
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/lilbloody/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheFrighteningAndBeautiful
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/ISoftheFandB
All photos by Heather L. Johnson