ART + SCIENCE: MAGIC: Mary Shannon Johnstone
Mary Shannon Johnstone is a visual artist and educator based in Raleigh, NC. Her series STARDUST AND ASHES continues her photographic investigations of the discarded lives of canines. Following her series and publication LANDFILL DOGS she continues to shed light on this concept, yet in a more subjective manner.
Using ashes from euthanized dogs as an element in her creative process, Shannon Johnstone creates cyanotypes resembling planets and astrological events to convey the realities and struggles of abandoned dogs. Through metaphor, she communicates the scope and emotional power of this sad reality. STARDUST AND ASHES offers a magical transformation that originates with loss yet offers a peaceful solace, one of celestial proportions.
Shannon Johnstone received her BFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and MFA in photography from Rochester Institute of Technology. Her project, Landfill Dogs, has been featured in national and international exhibitions and magazines, and was most notably on ABC World News with Diane Sawyer, and CNN.com. She has been a Photolucida Critical Mass Finalist six times (2017, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2010, and 2009), and she is the recipient of several grants including the Culture and Animals Foundation Creativity Grant (2013). Her first book, “Landfill Dogs”, came out in November 2015. Johnstone is a tenured associate professor at Meredith College in Raleigh, NC.
The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of starstuff.
—Carl Sagan, Cosmos
I made these cyanotypes with the ashes of euthanized homeless animals from an animal shelter’s crematorium. These animals died with nobody to mourn their passing, except maybe a few overwhelmed shelter workers.
I hope these images serve as a memorial to these animals, who were nobody and nothing. Turned to dust and returned to the cosmos, they become everyone and everything. Just as we all will someday.
For the past decade I have been working with homeless pets and exploring ways to visualize the tragedy of animal overpopulation. Up until now, I have used traditional lens-based photography. For this new work, I was inspired by artists who use simplicity, pulchritude, and heartbreak as their tools. Artists such as Chris Jordan, Michal Rovner, and Felix Gonzalez-Torres, who draw you in with beauty, but then hit you in the gut with sadness.
Using my own breath and fingers to manipulate the ashes, I work the ashes into celestial configurations while the sun exposes the cyanotype turning the negative space Prussian blue. With these images I hope to mourn the passing of thousands of our forgotten companions, and remind us that we are all connected and headed for the same fate: reduced to dust and returned to the stars. – Mary Shannon Johnstone
Linda Alterwitz is an interdisciplinary artist with diverse interests in the fields of medical research and the natural environment. Her work encourages an awakening of the senses toward a subtle shift of consciousness, offering people a connection with the unseen.
Through her investigations of art and science, she combines both creative and scientific elements within each frame, provoking a feeling of curiosity and wonderment. As part of her investigations that focus on the boundaries between art and science, she often incorporates scientific images within her photographs (derived from cutting edge technology) with photographs of the landscape. By combining elements of both creative and scientific elements within each frame, her work provokes a feeling of curiosity and wonderment.
Inspired by experimentation with diverse materials and processes, Alterwitz incorporates both traditional and new media techniques. Guided by current technology, her creative process often incorporates data driven images derived from X-rays, CT, PET, sonogram, fMRI diagnostic imaging or thermal imagining. Her work is also guided by the internal rhythms of our bodies, such as patterns of breath. By documenting the inhalation and exhalation of breath, she materializes an intangible human experience.
Alterwitz was the recipient of the Nevada Arts Council Visual Artist Fellowship. Her work has been published in Smithsonian Magazine, Orion Magazine, The New Statesman, among others.
She has exhibited her work in both traditional exhibition and site-specific installations in the United States, United Kingdom, Japan, China, Spain, Israel and Poland.
Alterwitz lives and works in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Posts on Lenscratch may not be reproduced without the permission of the Lenscratch staff and the photographer.
Waves: Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris WebbSeptember 29th, 2022
Blind Spot: Nancy Holt and Richard MisrachAugust 27th, 2022
Barbara Bosworth: The SeaJuly 20th, 2022
Richard Misrach: NotationsJune 4th, 2022