Two years ago, while browsing an estate sale in Washington, D.C., local artist Becca Johnson came across the photo album of a woman named Dell Barnhart who was born in the early 1900s. Using the information she was given about this woman, Johnson began to piece together a narrative of her life. "I had limited resources," Johnson says, "so I started making things up. From there it was a very organic transition to Dell becoming my alter ego."
The real and imagined life of dell barnhart is the title of Johnson's current exhibition of paintings, drawings and photographs at BoBo Gallery, and was created through Johnson's second self. There is no single representation of Johnson or her alter ego that actually exists in the exhibit, but they are present in the faces of women and animal forms like whales, foxes and minx. "They are a portrait of my emotional state more than my figurative state," says Johnson.
What's most notable about the work is Johnson's expressive use of materials. "I feel boxed in if I think there's only one medium I can work in," she says. Drips of paint and dramatic pencil marks appear from beneath layers of paint, laying bare the history of the painting. Some areas of her works are loose in their marks, while other areas are rendered with more clarity. Varying textures of paper are collaged together, and thick applications of paint appear above thin washes, producing a gratifying visual surface.
For her Attempts to get closer series, Johnson has repeatedly rendered two faces pressed against each other. The faces can be translated as two separate people or aspects of the same person — harkening the "alter ego" concept. This idea also appears in works like help when help is needed, where a woman appears to be shedding her original form.
In many instances, figures are cut out from their original canvas or page and sewn into another piece. At times cut-out forms are pinned directly onto the walls, apart from or to embellish another piece. Such is the case with Hem in all your demons, your eyes are lined with satin — the largest painting of the exhibition. In it, a woman wearing what appear to be donkey ears sits stoic, regal and larger than life. Her authority commands the room. A separate drawing of a group of minx is suspended over her head. "She's like a demon," says Johnson, "she has presence, and slyness and humanity all at the same time."
Johnson's artwork will be on display at Bobo Gallery through the month of April. www.beccajohnsonart.com
Sculptor Sean Pace opens gallery in downtown Asheville
Local artist Sean Pace, aka "Jinx," has been building his interactive kinetic sculptures in the basement of The Phil Mechanic Studios for the past several years, but now his work will have a more visible arena. This week he and his partner, Melissa Terrezza, are opening The Sean Pace Gallery at 5 Walnut St. to showcase their art pieces. "This will give me a legitimate voice, on my own terms, in downtown Asheville," says Pace.
Combining throwaway items he's found in trash bins, Pace says he "repurposes" objects into different concepts. He has made a small drawing machine out of an automatic massager, and a sound sculpture of rat traps and pencils. His sculpture Fight or Flight involves a washing machine and several boxing gloves. When turned on, the churning machine causes the gloves to thrash violently against each other.
The approximately 250-square-foot showroom will house Terrezza's jewelry and ceramic sculptures in addition to Pace's smaller sculptures such as Death Slapper, a mechanized piece, which involves rubber chickens that spin and slap a skull as they move. Larger works such as the Chicken Shooter, a machine that spits out rubber chickens at long distances, will be featured via video monitors that will be hung on the far end of the gallery.
On the walls, Pace will exhibit two-dimensional work such as the Jedi Jetta, where the iconic Yoda has been painted onto an actual car hood. Some sculptures also hang on the walls, like The Supernatural, a baseball bat with a gun inserted through it. When fully loaded and cocked, the gun can theoretically shoot into anything it smashes against. "This thing is a zombie killer," says Pace.
The opening reception for The Sean Pace Gallery will be Friday, April 2, from 6-11 p.m.