Alan Bur Johnson's work is not easy to categorize. It is a fascinating mix of art and science. I first saw his work in the home of my friend Lisa Sette who represents Alan's work at her gallery in Phoenix AZ. The piece was a dazzler from his Swarm series. (Click to enlarge photos)
The bulk of his work involves photo scan transparencies of insect and other specimens sandwiched together inside metal rings and mounted to the wall with dissection pins. The assemblages can get quite large and are extremely time intensive to install.
We've known and trusted Lisa Sette for a long time and had already hosted two of her other artists, Marie Navarre and Mayme Kratz in our residency program with wild success so we jumped at the chance to have Alan join us in August 2016. The timing of his visit was such that he arrived the day before we were to have the 3rd annual Cassilhaus Contemporary Curator Camp and he really wanted to have one of his pieces up for them to see so the poor guy had to spend his first 24 hours here working to install a new piece called Mapping Avienne. I asked Alan about the title--"Nola Avienne. Dear friend, unusual artist, phlebotomist and bee keeper, just to name a few. Her work addresses her body, as a result of injuries received falling through a trap door on a stage. She did a series of paintings on vellum based upon scans of her brain. I purchased one at the time I was composing this piece. Uncanny similarities between the two pieces"
Alan starts with a highly detailed template that indicated the location of every unique element and the distance off the wall that it will mount.
He then inserts a pin at each mount point to mark the wall and then moves the template to the side and begins the installation. All of the components are stored in a binder.
Alan had these tiny springs fabricated that hold each ring against the head of the pin so it does not flap freely in the breeze but still allows enough movement that the pieces feel alive.
Like several artists before him, the 1600 acres of Duke Forest below Cassilhaus was a huge draw for Alan. He spent countless hours in the woods collecting specimens for future pieces. I can't wait to see what he comes up with.
I hope to visit Alan in Jerome AZ this summer. Maybe I will find something that came out of his wanderings. Thank you Alan!
"Two chemicals called actin and myosin evolved eons ago to allow the muscles in insect wings to contract and relax. Thus, insects learned to fly. When one of those paired molecules are absent, wings will grow but they cannot flap and are therefore useless. Today, the same two proteins are responsible for the beating of the human heart, and when one is absent, the person's heartbeat is inefficient and weak, ultimately leading to heart failure. Again, science marvels at the way molecules adapt over millions of years, but isn't there a deeper intent? In our hearts, we feel the impulse to fly, to break free of boundaries. Isn't that the same impulse nature expressed when insects began to take flight? The prolactin that generates milk in a mother's breast is unchanged from the prolactin that sends salmon upstream to breed, enabling them to cross from saltwater to fresh." --Deepak Chopra