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Cal Poly University Art Gallery ‘Frightening and Beautiful’ Exhibit Set for Nov. 6-Dec. 5

“In Search of the Frightening and Beautiful,” Heather L. Johnson’s artistic response to her relationship to the land, will be on display in the University Art Gallery at Cal Poly from Nov. 6 through Dec. 5.

Image from Heather L. Johnson's - The Frightening and the Beautiful

The exhibit will open with an artist’s lecture at 5 p.m. Nov. 6 in Room 150 in the Dexter Building (No. 34), on campus. A reception will follow in the gallery.

For nearly two years, Johnson has been exploring the North American landscape by motorcycle, connecting to places and people through her project “In Search of the Frightening and Beautiful.” Last year she rode approximately 10,000 miles around the U.S. searching for “grand gestures made by humans in the landscape:” strip mines, oil refineries, oversized architectural projects, and other sites evidencing humanity’s impact on the land. At each location, Johnson left behind a hand-embroidered work of art for anyone to find, collect and keep.

This year she extended the boundaries of the project to Mexico with the hope of continuing around the world.

Cal Poly’s exhibit will feature a collection of Johnson’s works in different media, including embroidered compositions that infuse maps of places visited with schematics of motorcycle components that reference parts of her own body; watercolors based on roadside scenes; and projected images of environments where she left intimate embroideries detailing vivid moments on her journey. 

Through “In Search of the Frightening and Beautiful,” Johnson looks for relationships between different types of experiences, searching for evidence in the landscape of patterns and cycles that reveal our own fragile natures in relation to it. 

“She hopes her work will inspire questions about where we are, physically and psychologically, in relation to what surrounds us,” said Jeff Van Kleeck, coordinator of the University Art Gallery.

A section of the gallery will be reserved for work created by students taking a workshop led by Johnson. The student-artists will make small, site-specific works around the Cal Poly campus for friends, faculty and staff to encounter. Each piece will include instructions for its finder, encouraging him or her to bring the piece to the University Gallery for display in the exhibit.

The University Art Gallery is free and open to the public from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. The gallery is on the ground floor of the Dexter Building (No. 34) on campus.

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