Five-Minute Tours: Bethany Johnson at grayDUCK Gallery, Austin

by Glasstire February 10, 2022

Note: the following is part of Glasstire’s series of short videos, Five-Minute Tours, for which commercial galleries, museums, nonprofits and artist-run spaces across the state of Texas send us video walk-throughs of their current exhibitions. This will continue while the coronavirus situation hinders public access to exhibitions. Let’s get your show in front of an audience.

See other Five-Minute Tours here.

Bethany Johnson: Findings at grayDUCK Gallery, Austin. Dates: January 22 – March 6, 2022.

Artist Talk: Sunday, February 13 at 2 pm  (masks required indoors)

Gallery hours: Saturday & Sunday 12-6 pm or by appointment

Via the gallery:

“Reminiscent of geologic formations and appearing perhaps at home within a cabinet of natural curiosities, the intimate sculptures of Findings offer a multi-layered meditation on deep time, material metamorphosis, and the anthropogenic land-scaping of landfills, quarries, and road cuts.

These works take the form of stratified plinths of contrasting materials that are reminiscent of geological core samples, landfill strata, archival stacks and material storage. While the layered compositions strongly evoke land formations and geologic processes, all of the materials are discarded or found waste items, thereby also addressing notions of anthropogenic waste and its entombment. The waste materials are reclaimed from the artist’s personal waste stream, recovered from the landscape during regular litter removal excursions, and diverted from residential roadside bulk trash collection. The books and paper waste are largely gathered from a local thrift store outlet, which serves as the final stop for discarded household goods before they take their final trip to the nearby landfill.

The dimensional works are first assembled and composed by cutting and stacking these collected materials, which include plastics, paper, aluminum, fabric, rubber, foam, cardboard and wood. Densely bound together with pressure by a hidden, internal armature of screws and bolts, the final sculptural forms are then trimmed and sanded to a smooth polish.

The works’ satin surfaces evoke the hand-worn patina of worry stones, and the modest scale suggests the intimacy of a beloved keepsake, archived natural specimen, or historically hand-hewn scientific models. Despite their commonplace and otherwise abject component materials, the final results are mysterious and entrancing: the weighty sculptures reveal themselves slowly, asking for close examination and gradual discovery of their origins.

As a quietly urgent meditation on the damage of material consumption on our natural environment, the works of Findings offer a new alchemical life to otherwise discarded waste. This body of work addresses the artists’ growing concern around anthropogenic environmental degradation, and the practice follows logically from strict ethical principles surrounding the environmental impact of the artwork—both the avoidance of new material consumption, as well as the centering of these issues as facilitated by the artwork.

Findings, therefore, serves as a holistic practice that functions simultaneously as artmaking and act of doting service, aesthetic inquiry and humble act of contrition and environmental repair. The works speak in layers to notions of scale, deep time, the accumulation of knowledge, and our collective futures on this planet.


Bethany Johnson is an artist currently living in Austin, Texas. Johnson received her BA in studio art from Kalamazoo College in 2007 and MFA in painting from the University of Texas at Austin in 2011. Her work is represented by Moody Gallery in Houston, and has been featured in New American Paintings, Hyperallergic, and HuffPost, among others. Johnson has held residencies at Joshua Tree Highlands Artist Residency, Denkmalschmiede Höfgen in Grimma, Germany, and the Institut für Alles Mögliche in Berlin. She is an Assistant Professor in the School of Art and Design at Texas State University.”

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