Heather L Johnson
In Search of the Frightening and Beautiful
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given

Hand-embroidered artworks given to people or left in the landscape while traveling. Images are schematics from my shop manual, layered with text describing experiences from the road. Of 47 set loose so far, here are a few examples.

A work in progress.

A work in progress.

I stitched most of the pieces created for ISFB while on the road. In gardens and public squares, where the opportunities were plenty for meeting people. This act was and is a gateway, a departure point for lovely botched-language conversations filled with hand gestures and facial expressions. 

Sarteneja Baptist High School [Sarteneja, Belize]

Sarteneja Baptist High School [Sarteneja, Belize]

The site of the first piece I left in Central America, during the third ISFB journey in 2015. Earlier that day I'd ridden my bike around Sarteneja's dusty streets, speaking to high school-aged kids and their family members about some of their survival struggles. Many of the students attending this school couldn't afford its tuition or uniforms. Some part of me hoped that an artwork left there would bring the school and its kids a spark of good luck. The school's math teacher and principal, Erlindo Novelo, accepted it graciously.

Erlindo Novelo, principal of Sarteneja Baptist High School

Erlindo Novelo, principal of Sarteneja Baptist High School

Sarteneja, Belize. 2015

Sarteneja piece detail

Sarteneja piece detail

Text reads, "ninos corriendo baja la lluvia" (English: "kids running in the rain"). Based on a memory from ISFB2/2014 in El Tajin, Veracruz, Mexico.

Bus stop. ISFB3/2015, site 2. Chicaman, Guatemala

Bus stop. ISFB3/2015, site 2. Chicaman, Guatemala

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Santo Gabino. Chicaman, Guatemala

Santo Gabino. Chicaman, Guatemala

Santo's land covered the hill behind the bus stop where I'd decided to leave an artwork. My motivations for wanting to leave it there were unclear.. perhaps it was because I wanted someone to find it, fast. And fast someone did!

Santo approached quickly, with a look of friendly curiosity. He was thin.. his cow grazing the top of the hill was even thinner. I tried to explain what I was doing in my horrible Spanish; I knew it was pointless to try to convey why I wanted to leave these behind.. so I just handed the piece to him instead. He looked bewildered.. but I was able to get across that it was a gift.. which he accepted.. and smiled.

I started giving the pieces directly to people from this point on, more and more. 

Chicaman piece detail.

Chicaman piece detail.

Text reads, "bache del tamano de una vaca," or "pothole the size of a cow" (inspired by a fateful pothole encounter I'd had in Mexico the year before. If curious, you can read all about it here).

El Corpus, Honduras. ISFB3/2015, site 5.

El Corpus, Honduras. ISFB3/2015, site 5.

El Corpus piece detail.

El Corpus piece detail.

Isla Del Oro, Kuna Yala (San Blas Islands, Panama). ISFB3/2015 site 9.

Isla Del Oro, Kuna Yala (San Blas Islands, Panama). ISFB3/2015 site 9.

San Blas piece detail

San Blas piece detail

"Un hombre, negro y solo, en una carretera muy blanca". In English: "a man, black and alone, on a very white highway"..

Bogota, Colombia. 2015

Bogota, Colombia. 2015

Bogota, Colombia. 2015

Bogota, Colombia. 2015

Detail of piece left on a slide in the Candelaria district of Bogota. Text reads, "un avion en pedazos", which in English translates to "an airplane in pieces". Based on the memory of a site a friend and I encountered near Mexicali, northern Baja California, Mexico during the summer 0f 2014.

San Pedro la Laguna, Guatemala

San Pedro la Laguna, Guatemala

I was sitting in the town square, working on an embroidery in the drizzling rain, when six women, a family of three generations, walked out of the church in dresses they'd stitched themselves, color exploding everywhere. They took pictures of each other in front of the San Pedro statue (the town's patron saint).. and I saw an opportunity to talk to them. So I offered to take their picture with their phones.. and a conversation started. 

Galleana, Nuevo Leon, Mexico. ISFB2/2014, site 1.

Galleana, Nuevo Leon, Mexico. ISFB2/2014, site 1.

The first piece I placed in Latin America. In a crumbling building, where I doubted anyone would find it. Someone did.. my determined best friend, on his own ride through the Americas, a year later.

Galleana piece detail.

Galleana piece detail.

Text reads, "Calido abrazo con lagrimas" ("warm embrace with tears").