November 12 through December 12, 2014
Peter L. Johnson
I make art with water. The series, Deep Waters, features my hands-on mono-print making process that integrates my decade long artistic practice with the watersheds of the Upper Midwest.
These water prints evolve with, in, on, and alongside the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers. I bring my photographs with their embedded river stories to open-air studios where the water and nature’s tools on hand mark, draw on, stain, paint, and infuse the prints. These art-making places are presently at the two rivers’ confluence, a farm culvert stream choked with runoff commodity farm sediment, the headwaters, a basically pristine trout stream, and a spot where a haz-mat suit was required to work with my hands and feet in the Mississippi River.
I am deeply immersed in the watershed of the upper Mississippi River. For over a decade I have evolved a hands-on, get-in-the-water process that reveals and holds the devastating truth and intrinsic beauty of our relationship with our ecosystems. In this new series Under Water, I return to my love of photography to work in the bodies of water that have nurtured my artistic way.
My process is at the heart of my vision. My immersion in the water is essential to and guides my artistic gestures and marks. I have walked the rivers for years creating photographs and learning where to paint and print in shoreline open-air studios. Now I arrive at these places with my canvas, photographs, camera, and an offering of water. Every visit brings forward new inks, tools, and ways to use my camera. I draw, print, and photograph with sediment from commodity farms, dead snake corpses, buckthorn berry paint (our resident poster child for invasive species), four seasons of time, and the flow of the water. I ache at times as a stand in the river making art and look around another brutalized landscape. I also know the real dangers lurking in the water are hidden. This practice of seeing and creating beauty in this way is transformative, freeing and an honor.
In Under Water I dive in where my exploration, research, artistic choices, and stewardship has led me over the years. I work in a culvert stream choked with runoff commodity farm sediment and toxic chemicals, a spot where a haz-mat suit is still required to work in the Mississippi River in downtown Minneapolis, and the place of first creation for the Dakota people, Bdote, at the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers.
My other lifetime art project is Katherine’s Garden. Here at my home and studio gallery we grow Paul Robeson heirloom tomatoes, practice restoration ecology, have fifteen foot corn and native plants this year, and of course art all over the grounds that you are encouraged to touch and pick up in your hands. Here on my small plot of land I intentionally grow and attract native species to balance the limited nature that I find in my other studios.
Peter L. Johnson is an artist deeply immersed in the waters of the upper Mississippi River watershed and the Great Lakes Commons. From years of making placed-based art in community with water he has evolved a hands-on process that holds the devastating truth and intrinsic beauty of our relationship with our ecosystems.
Peter draws on his varied background as a documentary photographer, mud painter, solo street performance artist, and river rat to create bodies of work that sees our devastating relationship with the water. He can often be found wading in the river with his dog or at his studio Katherine’s Garden, where art, monarch butterflies, and Paul Robeson tomatoes often are on display. Browse Peter’s website to learn more.