- IMAGES COURTESY OF ERIC JOHNSON
- STEYNBERG GALLERY PRESENTS : Eric Johnson hangs through October with an exhibition of newly 18 constructed photographs titled “Shrines & Alters”. A reception takes place on Oct. 2 from 6-9 p.m. The Steynberg Gallery is located at 1531 Monterey St. SLO. Pictured are Victorian Love and Passion. Info: 547-0278, steynberggallery.com or ericjohnsonphoto.com.
New Times Why are you doing this show, “Shrines & Alters”?
Eric Johnson It’s a chance for me, after many years, of doing photography about the external world, observing it and describing it in a personal way. I am dealing with anthropological or illogical concepts. I went “inside” on this series, much more overtly. The structure uses very personal objects from my mother and friends that have meaning and I put it all together and they become interior snapshots of a state of mind.
New Times Are they images or actual sculptures?
Johnson They are constructed photographs, made up of 15-20 different pictures assembled together. They look like photographs, sculpture, and paintings. They are a blend of the three but they are two-dimensional images. I started this series in the winter of 2008.
New Times You’ve dabbled in several mysterious genres over the decades: Landscapes of golf courses as a form of "earth art” and “videoglyphs." Huh?
Johnson Videoglyphs were my first foray into digital over 10 years ago and it was a parody of archeology. They looked like rock art fragments but they are actually television images placed on rocks, so it’s tongue in cheek on archeology. I have had an interest in landscapes from the beginning [of his career]. But this new work is a more of an interior landscape, a chronicle of an increasing self-awareness. It’s higher risk because it is so personal. Photography is about the exterior world, trying to show your point of view that is distinctive.
New Times How long have you taught at Cal Poly?
Johnson I’m starting my 30th year at Cal Poly, teaching photography and the history of photography. I haven’t shown on this scale in 10 years on the Central Coast but have participated in the faculty shows at Cal Poly each year, and will again this fall.
New Times Walk me through one piece, “Victorian Love,” please.
Johnson That one is a good example of taking a Victorian chair, and taking the propriety and correctness associated with that and creating a spine, going through it, of contradictions. There are conflicts within the image, and that is what I mean by narrative. It’s important. You can dive in and explore it. It’s not the kind of image where you just glance at it. You will see ads from best buy and postcards of favorite art pieces or fragments home depot tarp – it’s not about the stuff, but gets to your state of mind. Hopefully that is expressed in each of them. This is the most personal type of series I’ve done and my hope is that those expressions are universal.
New Times Is this the reason why people should come and see your show?
Johnson I hope so! The work is unique—you won’t see anything like it—the subject matter and the look of it.
Christy Heron can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.