In Search of the Frightening and Beautiful
began in 2013 when Heather L. Johnson rode a motorcycle alone from her former home in New Jersey to Joshua Tree, CA and back, leaving artworks in the landscape for others to encounter and keep. She has since ridden over 38,000 miles throughout the United States, Mexico, Central and South America, leaving 45 works behind or in the hands of strangers met along the way.
Through this project, Heather seeks to broaden understanding between individuals and cultures. She crosses geographic and cultural boundaries, leaving behind intimate, hand-made objects in her wake to change hands, context and meaning. Conceived aboard a motorcycle, the project embraces risk and vulnerability to record and testify to the coincidences, contradictions and struggles that reveal the essence of human experience. While traveling, Johnson takes photographs and writes of her experiences, which are distilled into new publications and artworks. Work stemming from the project has been featured in 7 exhibitions, including solo shows at Cherryhurst House (Houston) and CalPoly University (San Luis Obispo, CA), and an In Search of the Frightening & Beautiful book has been published.
For previous press coverage of In Search of the Frightening and Beautiful, click here.
This summer of 2019, Heather will ride her Suzuki DR650 motorcycle around the United States for a fourth leg of ISFB. She will venture to places with economies dependent upon waning or unsustainable industries, giving hand-stitched artworks to those she meets on the road – embroidered versions of testimonials written or told by people in her current home of Houston – in exchange for new stories and ideas to share with others.
In a time marked by social division, ISFB4 seeks to create bridges between people with different backgrounds, identities and ideas - metaphorical ties that underscore our shared humanity. As she travels, Johnson will record findings in her blog and on the project Facebook page, returning to Texas with fresh inspiration upon which to base new written and visual work.
To prepare for ISFB4, Heather is currently collecting stories from people with relationships to Houston - anyone who has grown up, lived in, or visited the city at any point - from which she extracts sentences or phrases to stitch by hand to squares of fine linen that she’ll take on the road. The stories in their entirety, including written tracts, audio recordings and spoken word videos and transcriptions, are being uploaded to the stories page on this website as their corresponding embroideries are completed.
If you would like to submit a story, call the ISFB STORY HOTLINE at 409-422-9126 to record one, or contact Heather to send a written version or to arrange to be recorded in person.
Stories from Houstonians will continue to be collected and embroidered until the ISFB4 departure date planned for August 2019. Once on the road, Heather will open up the call for stories to those living all over the nation.
Heather is gratefully accepting donations to help get ISFB4 off the ground and to keep it on the road. To help pay for gas, motorcycle maintenance and the usual plethora of unanticipated costs that creep up on any long distance bike journey.
Most of the cost of this trip will be covered by mural commissions, art sales, and the generosity of some great friends who’ve pledged to cover apartment rent during Heather’s absence. But additional small contributions of $10 or more will ensure she keeps her head above water when she’s out there. If you would like to donate via PayPal, click the button below.