Filter Photo is pleased to present Wig Heavier Than A Boot, an exhibition bringing together photography by David Johnson and poetry by Philip Matthews. A corresponding book is available via Kris Graves Projects.
Revealing Petal—a drag persona as whom Philip manifests to write, and David photographs—the project crosses art-making rituals with isolated performances within domestic spaces and pastoral landscapes. Taken together, the resulting photographs and poems reveal dynamic relationships between author, character, and observer. By articulating a specific creative process in which one identity becomes two, the project, in turn, opens up a conversation about gender expression through an art-historical lens.
The photographs provide one record of author and character, blurring art-historical masculine and feminine postures. The poems provide another, which elaborate upon the lived experience of being, modeling, and sometimes, obscuring Petal. Subverting the ekphrastic literary tradition, Philip’s poems do not respond to David’s photographs, nor vice-versa. Both forms are made in the present: as David directs the shoot, Philip makes performance notes that give way to the poem. The photographs capture the blend or distinction between Philip and Petal, and the poems hybridize their perspectives, enacting a relationship that is surreal, empowering, and unbearable, as the project title suggests. What is constant is a sense of a person wanting to belong to the place that hosts them (e.g. farmland in rural Wisconsin, the coast of North Carolina, an art museum in St. Louis, a small church), even or especially when the social norms of that place are felt to ostracize them. Both photographs and poems balance narrative with fragmentation and invite multiple interpretations.
David Johnson is an artist, educator, and curator based in Iowa City, IA. He received an MFA in Visual Art from Washington University in St. Louis in 2007 and earned his BFA in Studio Art with an emphasis in Photography from Texas Christian University. In 2011, David was awarded the Great Rivers Visual Arts Award from the Gateway Foundation. This biennial award culminated with his 2012 exhibition institutional etiquette and strange overtones at the Contemporary Art Museum in Saint Louis. Wig Heavier Than a Boot, a collaborative project with poet Philip Matthews, was published in September 2019 by Kris Graves Projects and will be featured at Fotofest in Houston in 2020.
Johnson’s photographs have been exhibited internationally, including at the Contemporary Art Museum Saint Louis, Mildred Lane Kemper Museum, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, National Building Museum in Washington D.C. and Rathaus in Stuttgart, Germany. Don’t Take Pictures, the Humble Arts Foundation, Lenscratch, Photo-emphasis and Fraction Magazine have featured his work online. David has curated exhibitions for the Center of Creative Arts, Paul Artspace and the International Photography Hall of Fame and Museum all in St Louis. Currently, Johnson is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Photography at The University of Iowa.
Philip Matthews is a poet from eastern North Carolina. He is the author of Witch, forthcoming from Alice James Books in April 2020, and Wig Heavier than A Boot, a collaboration with photographer David Johnson, recently launched by Kris Graves Projects. Anchored by site-specific meditation and performance, his practice investigates spiritual, queer power, ecological shift, and questions of home. Philip is the recipient of fellowships and residencies from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, the Peaked Hill Trust, Hemera Foundation, and Wormfarm Institute. He has taught at Washington University in St. Louis and the Kansas City Art Institute, and from 2013-16, he organized public programs at the Pulitzer Arts Foundation, emphasizing artist-driven thinking, cross-disciplinary collaboration, and community-directed action. He holds an MFA Writing from Washington University in St. Louis and BA English from Tulane University.
This exhibition is partially sponsored by The Illinois Arts Council Agency. The Artist Talk series is supported in part by the Hegner Family Foundation.