Charlotte Jackson Fine Art opens an exhibition of works by Johnnie Winona Ross

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Charlotte Jackson Fine Art opens an exhibition of works by Johnnie Winona Ross
Johnnie Winona Ross, Bean Creek Spring, 2022, mineral pigments burnished on stretched linen, 60 x 57 inches.

SANTA FE, NM.- There is something that happens to space when music is played. Imagine an outdoor tent – open to let the late sunlight slant in, end of summer, warmth of the day seeping into the grass, cool air coming down from the mountains. A few people remain in the rows of seating and as the crew begin to clear up from the day’s events, someone puts Kind of Blue on the stereo.

What happens to the people inside the tent? To the space around? Suddenly the space is filled. There are dimensions to the air, there is a cadence to the breeze. Suddenly the sunlight has a shape, the cold has a color, the saxophone loops over heads, the piano rolls out across the grass. Everything has dimension, form, the quality of being shivering through itself. Everything is connected in a puzzle-box shaped place created by the music.

There is a magic in the way that a jazz song can hold open and electrify a space. There is a similar magic in how Johnnie Winona Ross opens up a space with his paintings. Created with a quiet care and attention to detail, what goes into the physical building of these paintings is as important to Ross as the images they convey.

Using handmade copper tacks to stretch his specially textured linen canvas over basswood stretcher bars, these sensual details – always visible at the edges of the painting – form a kind of anchor for the viewer. While these breathing, complex, white and color-woven paintings open up an almost three-dimensional space, create a similar sort of multi-dimensional, multisensory, and potentially even synesthetic experience as music can – their job is not to take you somewhere else, you are not supposed to forget that this is a painting on a wall – their job is to bring you right here. To the space and time of now. Into your body, into the gallery, into the experience of being present with a particular piece of art, in a particular moment, and a particular kind of light.

This is a meditative experience. Sanctuary. And it takes a long time to get here. Ross can take years layering, sanding down, and then re-layering his pieces – the white bands interwoven with the dripped colors that form their complex runnels through and behind the white. More than anything, these paintings suggest the landscape that inspires them: the mineral-layered mesas of the Southwest, with their mysterious and sacred seeps, where water can suddenly rise up or push through layers of earth, bringing life, changing and charging the desert air with the smell of light and water. With their hundreds of layers of deposited mineral pigment – they are almost geological in their creation. This shows through in their quiet. Their mysterious depths. In the feeling, as one stands with one of the paintings, that it has a relationship to something very old and very solid.

Bean Creek Seeps presents the viewer with an opportunity to take a journey. An experience that walks a line between the best elements of a hike, a museum visit, and a meditation practice. Within these softly glowing paintings, one might find the space to breathe, to listen, to see what is there.

–— Michaela Kahn, Ph.D

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