Heather L Johnson
In Search of the Frightening and Beautiful


My name is Heather johnson. I've been a working visual artist for over 20 years. I also ride motorcycles...

 Camping out in Isaac Salas' garage. Alajuela, Costa Rica. May 2015.

Camping out in Isaac Salas' garage. Alajuela, Costa Rica. May 2015.


In Search of the Frightening and Beautiful..

..is a long-distance motorcycle journey and nomadic art project. On the road I take pictures and record experiences, leaving hand-made works of art in people's hands or in the landscape in a spirit of exchange. Occasionally I stop to distill it all into new bodies of work: embroideries, paintings, drawings, photographs, writings...

So far, the journey has covered 38,000 miles, through 14 countries, where I've left 45 pieces of myself out in the world, to change hands, contexts and meaning.

Conceived through the act of riding a motorcycle, this venture embraces risk and vulnerability to record and testify to the "frightening and beautiful" - to the coincidences, contradictions and struggles that underlie the essence of human experience.

With a little bit of luck and a lot of hard work, it will eventually make its way around the world.


If the chips fall into place, this will happen next year and into 2020. To prepare for this I am collecting stories from people of a broad range of backgrounds based in, or who’ve spent time in Houston. These stories describe moments of transition, events that have initiated life changes, from the most subtle to more monumental episodes of celebration or loss. From the paragraphs submitted I extract key phrases and stitch them, word for word, onto small squares of fine linen, which will accompany me on the road. My intention is to give these squares to others I meet on the road – others with entirely different backgrounds – in exchange for their stories, which I will bring back home to Houston. In this way a bridge of experience is created between people who hold different identities, cultures and ideas… metaphorical ties that underscore the degree to which we are all bound together by our basic humanity.

If you would like to participate in ISFB4 by submitting a story, please get in touch!

PS. For all those anecdotal, spontaneous, irreverent (yet heartfelt) and very current tidbits - impressions, reactions, "deep thoughts" (cough) and general updates - check out the ISFB Facebook Page. You'll find coverage by others of the project on the ISFB Press Page.

about me..

I grew up moving around a lot. This bred a special kind of rootlessness I've spent most of my life fighting. My discovery of motorcycles set the wanderlust alight, fueling the fire, instigating an embrace of movement I've since learned to love as an incentive, rather than a barrier to living a high-quality existence. When in motion, a motorcycle and its rider cut through space like a knife, exposed and unprotected, physically a part of the environment through which they pass. Functioning as a conduit, the motorcycle is a powerful connector, a means through which I seek to understand the world around me.

Employing an assortment of media, my art examines spaces from the perspective of an outsider looking in. It places people in the position of looking intimately at subjects which on the surface may appear uncanny, distorted, fragmented, or temporary - all only partially within reach. Their power lies in their very “otherness”: what is left unseen, and in any desire they invoke to learn the untold portion of a story. I strive to inspire questions about where we are, physically and psychologically, in relation to what surrounds us.