Soul Leaving The Body

Johnson Bowles

ABOUT THE ARTIST:

Johnson Bowles has exhibited in more than 80 solo and group exhibitions nationally. Feature articles, essays, and reviews of her work have appeared in 40 publications around the country including SPOT (Houston Center for Photography), Sculpture, Fiberarts, and the Houston Post. She is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Individual Fellowship and a Houston Center for Photography Fellowship. Recently, she served as an artist in residence at the Visual Studies Workshop in Rochester, NY. She received her MFA in photography and painting from Ohio University and BFA in painting from Boston University.

ARTIST STATEMENT: While this body of work is not about a particular religious belief or cannon, the series title takes its name from the St. Veronica legend. It is said Veronica wiped Christ’s face with her veil on his journey carrying the cross. The image of his face miraculously left an impression on the cloth. The series Veronica’s Cloths explores the residual nature of physical and emotional trauma in a contemporary context of women’s experience. The works represent flashes in the mind’s eye and suggest an untold drama of violation, loss, grief, pain, and shame. Each work is a collage using vintage handkerchiefs, photographs, and other materials in a manner that is purposefully “grandmotherly” and “nanacore.” Inspiration includes Mexican retablos, religious shrines, Baroque art, 17th Century Dutch still life paintings, Voudou, and African power figures (nkisi) of Kongo tradition. The blurry color-saturated images of flowers symbolize what cannot be understood because the experience is too close. It expresses a sense of yearning to see what is beautiful but unattainable or no longer exists. It references the experience of closing one’s eyes and only seeing shapes and colors but nothing is concrete and three-dimensional. These are images focused on searching and “looking” for truth and healing amidst profound difficulty and dealing with what is “out of sight.” The images of hands are photographs of details from paintings displayed in museums. These details taken out of context suggest clues to a more complex narrative drama and beg the question, “what happened?” Each image conveys the fallibility of memory and the incompleteness or impossibility of total recall. The gestures represented convey the continuum of responses to trauma and their complexities such as prayer, anger, depression, fear, guilt, or shame.