23 Jul The Space Between: Artists Statements
N.C. 040 © David Johnson in collaboration with Philip Matthews
THE SPACE BETWEEN:
The following statements are about the artwork included in The Space Between, an exhibition featuring the photography of David Johnson in collaboration with Philip Matthews and Kris Sanford at the Colorado Photographic Arts Center August 14 – September 23, 2020.
Wig Heavier Than a Boot
David Johnson and Philip Matthews
Wig Heavier Than a Boot brings together photography by David Johnson and poetry by Philip Matthews. Revealing Petal—a drag persona as whom Philip manifests to write, and David photographs—the project crosses art-making rituals with isolated performances within domestic spaces and pastoral landscapes. Taken together, the resulting photographs and poems reveal dynamic relationships between author, character, and observer. By articulating a specific creative process in which one identity becomes two, the project in turn opens up a conversation about gender expression through an art-historical lens.
The photographs provide one record of author and character, blurring art-historical masculine and feminine postures. The poems provide another, which elaborate upon the lived experience of being, modeling, and sometimes, obscuring Petal. Subverting the ekphrastic literary tradition, Philip’s poems do not respond to David’s photographs, nor vice-versa. Both forms are made in the present: as David directs the shoot, Philip makes performance notes that give way to the poem. The photographs capture the blend or distinction between Philip and Petal, and the poems hybridize their perspectives, enacting a relationship that is surreal, empowering, and unbearable, as the project title suggests. What is constant is a sense of a person wanting to belong to the place that hosts them (e.g. farmland in rural Wisconsin, the coast of North Carolina, an art museum in St. Louis, a small church), even or especially when the social norms of that place are felt to ostracize them. Both photographs and poems balance narrative with fragmentation and invite multiple interpretations.
Through the Lens of Desire
Relationships, real or imagined, are at the center of this work. Growing up queer, I searched for a history that spoke to me—included me. In my family history, there were no couples that mirrored my own intimate relationships. That didn’t keep me from imagining such couples.
Through the Lens of Desire creates implied narratives using snapshots from the 1920s- 1950s. Vernacular photographs from that era were created as private keepsakes and the unselfconscious intimacy they depict feels authentic and relatable. As modern viewers, we witness personal moments that were never intended to be public. By purposefully selecting images that picture men together and women together I am creating an imaginary queer past. I am drawn to the subtle points of contact and the spaces between the figures pictured. Each gesture or distracted glance holds a story, and it is these stories that reflect my own desire and experiences.
This project brings a contemporary rereading to old photographs to address sexuality and relationships in a subtle way. My images are works of fiction, where I project my own dreams onto moments from the past.