Heather L Johnson
In Search of the Frightening and Beautiful
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events. updates. miscellany.

events. updates. miscellany.

 

Murals..lots ‘o’ murals..

.. a new direction with the potential to sustainably fund In Search of the Frightening and Beautiful

House of Blues FolkHeART mural in progress. Photo by David M. Behrman.

House of Blues FolkHeART mural in progress. Photo by David M. Behrman.

So for the last several months - since last summer, in fact - I’ve been painting murals, thanks some especially stellar individuals at my current place of employment, House of Blues Houston.

About a year ago, as I was touching up paint scuffs around the walls of HoB’s main music hall, our general manager walked up to me out of the blue, with the most intriguing question:

“So, I hear your this badass artist…”

...if we were to, say, offer you ‘X’ amount of dollars.. would you do something with that hallway back there?” (He was referring to one especially long, dark, meandering, ruby-red painted corridor connecting the music hall with HoB’s Foundation Room, frequently traversed by employees, touring musicians, well-heeled business people and others, that either creeped out or bored those venturing its brooding emptiness. It was once lined with golden hand-painted flames which were sloppily painted over, for reasons I still can’t quite fathom.)

“Absolutely,” I said. As in, without question, without a moment of doubt or hesitation, despite not having any real idea of what that would mean. But I figured it out and within two months I was painting roses and trees and sugar skulls and mythical female figures up and down all 120 feet of that double-sided passageway, having a blast, and getting paid what I’d asked to be paid.

House of Blues Houston’s  Hall of Roses  in progress. Summer 2018

House of Blues Houston’s Hall of Roses in progress. Summer 2018

Marie Laveau.

Marie Laveau.

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Photo by Scott Campbell

Photo by Scott Campbell

The feedback was strong. People of all sorts seemed to enjoy the hallway’s transformation from an ugly scary corridor to a conduit for what I hope folks experience as a more of a pleasurable journey. And it led our GM to invite me to take on the even more challenging project of tackling HoB’s green rooms, where musicians get ready for their shows backstage.

Greenroom B

Greenroom B

Greenroom A

Greenroom A

These are based on a single panoramic image I shot of downtown Houston’s skyline, split into two, one for each greenroom. Each half was transformed into detailed, floor-to-ceiling paintings with easter egg portraits of East Texas musicians embedded here and there.

DJ Screw

DJ Screw

George Jones

George Jones

Lightin’ Hopkins

Lightin’ Hopkins

Janis Joplin

Janis Joplin

Christian Kidd of  The Hates

Christian Kidd of The Hates

Big Mama Thornton

Big Mama Thornton

The Judys

The Judys

ZZ Top

ZZ Top

Then, just as I was finishing the green rooms up, Alex Orwin, a member of HoB’s marketing department, tracked me down with yet another project in mind - one that I’m still working on as I write this. This 63-foot-long wall - the backside of a hotel just a couple of blocks up the street from House of Blues - was in need of a new muralist to promote House of Blues’ folk art collection, an impressive body of paintings made by self-taught or community-taught artists from Texas, the South and beyond.

I did not know what the hell to do with this. Folk art? What do I know about that? I’m a reasonably privileged Northern American Master of Fine Arts degree-holding white woman. My regular art practice owes a lot to Conceptual artists of the 60s and 70s, which couldn’t be farther away from the hand-crafted unpretentious sensibilities of what I thought “folk art” was. I felt unqualified.

Until I started looking around at the paintings hanging in House of Blues. They were playful but dark, haunted with reflections of beliefs and consequences, bright colored and whimsical and rich and heavy as hell. Yeah. What an honor I realized it was to be tasked with bringing attention to these beautiful works of art. Fuck yes.

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2 weeks in.. one more week to go.

2 weeks in.. one more week to go.

This mural is turning out to be a profound learning experience. It’s been a rather outrageous act of self trust, the kind where you just take a deep breath and throw your heart and guts into it, not unlike diving off a cliff. I’m proud to report that, so far, it is doing its job. People slow down and smiles creep across their faces. They take each others’ pictures in front of it. It seems to be making folks happy. Can’t ask for more than that.

And.. these things pay well. Which means extra money that will go toward In Search of the Frightening and Beautiful, Journey No. 4.

What did I say before? Oh yeah.

FUCK. YES.

PS. The heart is inspired by a dear friend of mine who was murdered six weeks ago. Her life was cut short by her upstairs neighbor, who, for whatever reason, chose to stab her twice in the chest. She died in the hospital that night, before anyone could say goodbye. Though she has left behind a gaping hole in the lives of her two sons, brother, sisters, nieces, nephews, and all the rest of us privileged enough to have known her, her spirit lives on in all of us, an angel in the sky, here in the form of the wounded but everlasting heart that lives on in all of us.

Viva Angie Delgado.

Heather L Johnson