Bethany Johnson | Findings
- Opening: Saturday, January 22, 7-10pm (masks required indoors)
Artist Talk: Sunday, February 13, 2pm
- Exhibition: January 22 - March 6, 2022
Reminiscent of geologic formations and appearing perhaps at home within a cabinet of natural curiosities, the intimate sculptures of Findings offer a multi-layered meditation on deep time, material metamorphosis, and the anthropogenic land-scaping of landfills, quarries, and road cuts.
These works take the form of stratified plinths of contrasting materials that are reminiscent of geological core samples, landfill strata, archival stacks and material storage. While the layered compositions strongly evoke land formations and geologic processes, all of the materials are discarded or found waste items, thereby also addressing notions of anthropogenic waste and its entombment. The waste materials are reclaimed from the artist’s personal waste stream, recovered from the landscape during regular litter removal excursions, and diverted from residential roadside bulk trash collection. The books and paper waste are largely gathered from a local thrift store outlet, which serves as the final stop for discarded household goods before they take their final trip to the nearby landfill.
The dimensional works are first assembled and composed by cutting and stacking these collected materials, which include plastics, paper, aluminum, fabric, rubber, foam, cardboard and wood. Densely bound together with pressure by a hidden, internal armature of screws and bolts, the final sculptural forms are then trimmed and sanded to a smooth polish.
The works’ satin surfaces evoke the hand-worn patina of worry stones, and the modest scale suggests the intimacy of a beloved keepsake, archived natural specimen, or historically hand-hewn scientific models. Despite their commonplace and otherwise abject component materials, the final results are mysterious and entrancing: the weighty sculptures reveal themselves slowly, asking for close examination and gradual discovery of their origins.
As a quietly urgent meditation on the damage of material consumption on our natural environment, the works of Findings offer a new alchemical life to otherwise discarded waste. This body of work addresses the artists’ growing concern around anthropogenic environmental degradation, and the practice follows logically from strict ethical principles surrounding the environmental impact of the artwork—both the avoidance of new material consumption, as well as the centering of these issues as facilitated by the artwork.
Findings, therefore, serves as a holistic practice that functions simultaneously as artmaking and act of doting service, aesthetic inquiry and humble act of contrition and environmental repair. The works speak in layers to notions of scale, deep time, the accumulation of knowledge, and our collective futures on this planet.
Bethany Johnson is an artist currently living in Austin, Texas, working in drawing, collage and sculpture. Johnson earned an MFA in painting from the University of Texas at Austin in 2011. Her work is represented by Moody Gallery in Houston, where her fourth solo exhibition was exhibited in December 2020.
Johnson’s artwork has been featured in New American Paintings, Hyperallergic, and HuffPost, among others, and she has held numerous residencies including Denkmalschmiede Höfgen in Grimma, Germany, Institut für Alles Mögliche in Berlin, and Joshua Tree Highlands Artist Residency. She is an Assistant Professor in the School of Art and Design at Texas State University, where she teaches courses in design and drawing.