Grandmother's Trees NC 036, ©David Johnson in collaboration with Philip Matthews

The Space Between: David Johnson in collaboration with Philip Matthews & Kris Sanford

Grandmother’s Trees (N.C. 036) © David Johnson in collaboration with Philip Matthews





August 14 – September 23, 2020 




Opening Reception:
CPAC will offer timed entry to see the exhibition on August 14th between 5:00 – 8:30 p.m.. Registration is required and can be done here.

Due to COVID-19 visitors are asked to wear masks and the number of visitors in the gallery will be limited. This event will be free and open to the public.

Special Programming:
On Saturday, August 15th at 2:00 p.m., a virtual Zoom discussion with David Johnson, Philip Matthews, and Kris Sanford will take place in collaboration with Lighthouse Writers Workshop. Carolina Ebeid will be moderating. Separate registration for this special programming is required. Please sign up here.


Necklace, ©Kris Sanford
Navy, ©Kris Sanford

The Space Between brings together photographs from two separate bodies of work: one by Kris Sanford who uses art to explore an imagined queer history, and the other a collaboration of poetry and images that reveals Petal, a persona whom Philip Matthews manifests to write and David Johnson photographs. With time, we have come to see and understand the world and its history through a select set of lenses. How do we begin to shift this view and see in new ways? This exhibition seeks to provide the space to engage in critical conversations about identity, sexuality, and relationships. The juxtaposition of three artists’ work in one place, for the first time, as the inspiration.

Growing up queer, Kris searched for a history that spoke to her—included her. And photography gave her the space to imagine. Kris’ work, from her series Through the Lens of Desire, offers a new lens through to which view vintage photographs of men pictured together and women together from the 1920s – 1950s. By subtly implying another narrative for the relationships pictured, real or imagined, Kris is able to reflect on her own desires and experiences. Intimate moments of gestures, touches, proximity are all identified and focused on through Kris’ intentional circular crop, inviting the viewer to wonder the possibility of a different story.

In Wig Heavier Than a Boot, there is a dynamic relationship between author, character, and observer. Philip and David work together, subverting the ekphrastic literary tradition, to explore the ways in which space can affect personality and how an individual can impact the environment they occupy. The resulting portraiture project is a symbiotic relationship of photographs and poetry that allow a space for Petal to be realized. David’s photographs take the viewer through moments of duality, seeing both Philip and Petal. Parallel this with Philip’s poems that navigate the tension of presenting Petal, but ultimately claiming the power of her as a muse and teacher. This collaboration provides breathing room for both artists to amplify their voices while helping the other to develop.

Pictured above: “Necklace” (right) and “Navy” (left) by Kris Sanford


Read Statements from the Artists about the exhibition

Read about “Wig Heavier Than a Boot” in Humble Arts Foundation 

Purchase “Wig Heavier Than a Boot” at Kris Graves Projects

See more of “Through the Lens of Desire” on Lenscratch


David Johnson is an artist, educator, and curator based in Iowa City, IA. He received an MFA in Visual Art from Washington University in St. Louis in 2007 and earned his BFA in Studio Art with an emphasis in Photography from Texas Christian University. In 2011, David was awarded the Great Rivers Visual Arts Award from the Gateway Foundation. This biennial award culminated with his 2012 exhibition institutional etiquette and strange overtones at the Contemporary Art Museum in Saint Louis. Kris Graves Projects published Wig Heavier Than a Boot a collaborative project with poet Philip Matthews in 2019.

His photographs have been exhibited internationally, including the Contemporary Art Museum Saint Louis, Mildred Lane Kemper Museum, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, National Building Museum in Washington D.C. and Rathaus in Stuttgart, Germany. His work can be found in the collection at The Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago. Don’t Take Pictures, the Humble Arts Foundation, Lenscratch, Photo-emphasis and Fraction Magazine have featured his work online. David has curated exhibitions for Center of Creative Arts, Paul Artspace and the International Photography Hall of Fame and Museum in St Louis. Currently, Johnson is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Photography at The University of Iowa.

Philip Matthews is a poet from eastern North Carolina whose practice roots in site-specific meditation and performance. He is the author of Witch, published by Alice James Books in April 2020, and Wig Heavier Than a Boot, a collaboration with David Johnson, published by Kris Graves Projects in October 2019. Individual poems have appeared in Poetry Northwest, Tusculum Review, Denver Quarterly, Connotation Press, Sonora Review and elsewhere. He is the recipient of fellowships and residencies from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, the Hemera Foundation, and Wormfarm Institute.

From 2013-16, Philip organized public programs at the Pulitzer Arts Foundation, emphasizing cross-disciplinary collaboration, artist-driven thinking, and community-directed action. Key projects included Ellipsis (April 15-July 2, 2016), featuring a focused presentation of video poetry and essay by Claudia Rankine and John Lucas, Thylias Moss, and John Bresland; How To Grieve and Dream at the Same Time (May 31-June 4, 2016), a residency with Bhanu Kapil; and Marfa Dialogues / St. Louis (July 30-August 3, 2014), a collaboration with Ballroom Marfa and The Public Concern Foundation that invited artists to present imaginative solutions to climate change issues in the Midwest.

Philip received his MFA Writing from Washington University in St. Louis and BA English from Tulane University. He has taught creative writing and professional practice at Washington University in St. Louis and the Kansas City Art Institute.

Kris Sanford grew up in southeast Michigan. She received a BFA in photography from the College for Creative Studies in Detroit and an MFA in photography from Arizona State University. She is currently an assistant professor at Central Michigan University. Kris has exhibited her work nationally and internationally, including group exhibitions in Amsterdam, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Houston, London, Miami, and New York. She was named a finalist for the 2018 Dorthea Lange-Paul Taylor Prize from the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University. Her art explores intimate relationships, specifically queer desire, through the use of appropriated images, video, and text.