Day 1: Faith Johnson

Isnt she lovely?

On April 3rd I attended a lecture given by performance artist Faith Johnson at the Fred Jones Museum of Art. I confess, I never really got performance art until I heard her speak.

Faith explained her motivations are making the invisible visible.  If you could see an idea as it was being formed in someone’s mind, what would that look like?

Lost in Thought (2009)

For Faith, it would look like long wispy filaments curling and swaying around her head. Turning her into a sort of medusa, her hair serpentine and attached at its ends to the ceiling. She is confined to a small space because she is bound and the idea confined as well. She repeated this performance again in Beijing but attached her hair to a wall and fought against it to portray being unable to remember something.

I cant remember (2009)

If you could see someone struggling with and through their darkness what would that look like? This is a theme she has come back to a lot in her work since the passing of her mother. She showed us a series of Polaroids of herself laying in the same spot and position that her mother died in, though not all her work in this area is so “heavy” as she called it.

Marsh Nest (2006)

A neighbor thought she was a dead body and called the police

A piece that I was really fascinated by was her being knocked back off her feet. When she regained balance she felt around in her mouth and spread black charcoal and spit across her face. When she had completely covered the area beneath her eyes she removed a crystal from her mouth.

Are you seeing an evolution?

Surprise, grief, trying to rid yourself of toxic negativity and finally emerging with something beautiful perhaps even hopeful. More performances of hers explore religious experiences which seem to overlap with the darker ones. Like “The Heroics of Breathing”

Heroics of Breathing (2007)

or “Miracle” where she investigates the healing phenomenon of pushing your intent on someone through  “laying hands on them”.

Miracle (2007)

Though she isn’t particularly religious herself.

One that really spoke to me, as a pagan, was her work “gold hands”.

Gold Hands (2008)

Gold has been used for thousands of years to lend its aesthetic power to religious figures. In the western world we perceive “god” as the creator and agent of change in all things. There is something very existential about painting your own hands gold, taking responsibility and saying that you are a creator and agent of change.

But no one can speak better about their own work than Faith Johnson herself so I encourage you all to explore her website and see what speaks to you.

What do you think?

The Pythia


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