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Johnna Arnold In/Finite Potential

Wishing I had my very own village full of all the kind people who have helped me with this, and many other projects. Sean Zaya Jen Mom Ray Dad Scott Scotty Rebecca & all who helped in any way Thank You


uddenly, photographer Johnna Arnold just knew what she wanted to do – she wanted to get out of the car. Her earlier work was taken shooting from a car, glimpses of the world rushing by, but somehow this wasn’t enough. So she found herself on foot in West Oakland surrounded by the chaos of garbage, homelessness, freeways and onramps. Aiming her lens at the cars and cement, she discovered what she “really wanted was to cross the onramp between cars, climb the cement retaining wall and crouch in the rat infested ivy flourishing in the four feet of space between the freeway and the onramp.” With that, she wedged herself into a space in the imagination where primal fears and desires live – tapping into fantasies of escape, our contradictory longings for distance, and for home. The photographs in Arnold’s In/finite Potential series are punctuated with strong vertical lines, harsh white popping on black, familiar lights that obscure the stars and replace the sun. They take place in spaces that are self-regulating – perhaps it is not illegal to occupy them, but most people avoid these places. A woman is supine beside the ruthless, ceaseless highway, eyes closed. She is not just out of place; she is terrifyingly vulnerable, yet also absurdly serene. This image gives off a shock of recognition – this is one from my own dreams and nightmares. Here is the dream of suddenly finding myself in the wrong place, with limbs of lead, the dream where I grapple with the panic of being lost, or left behind.

This series is not a reductionist or purist undertaking like Ed Ruscha’s celebrated Twenty-six Gasoline Stations or Catherine Opie’s Freeways. The practice of creating this art is intimately connected with its subject. Raised in the quiet suburb Palo Alto in the late 1970’s, Arnold describes herself as a daydreamer who was not content to limit her adventures within those predictable and leafy confines. Today she scours the Bay Area freeway system using an old 4x5 Speed Graphic press camera to create her images. She begins by scouting locations, then returns to gauge the light at different times of day. She enlists a friend to help, and returning attempts to secure a safe location for the camera and for herself. After loading the film, setting the exposure and leaving her assistant with the camera, she takes her place in the image. While shooting the two communicate through hand signals, shouting or cell phone. She writes “The ‘misuse’ of land – without doing any harm – the climbing of trees and wedging through freshly cut holes in fencing is thrilling. The compartmentalization of our lives has always struck me as being a mixed blessing. By misusing our surroundings I get to swim upstream and experience places that usually go underappreciated...” Although Arnold is visible in each of the photographs, these are not self-portraits, they are documents of performances, more serendipitous than fiction. Regarding them, we too can feel the thrill of trespassing, of mastering our fear and reversing our ordinary relationships. Arnold’s figure in these images is malleable, flexible – she might be young, she might be old. Her slight figure could be that of a teenager, an old man or woman, homeless person, parkourist, or suicidal wall-streeter. The exception to this is in the image titled Passenger Train where the artist stands in a skirt, the shape of the skirt echoing that of the surrounding structures, her outline is preposterously, defiantly feminine. Like a parody of a pioneer woman, she confronts an entirely new frontier.

The concrete landscapes in In/finite Potential lead from the present back into our distant past. Today’s roads and highways are made from the same material used in ancient civilizations. Romans used cement to create buildings, and for aqueducts that echo today’s freeways. The walls lining our modern highways are sometimes deliberately molded to mimic natural rock face, and are tagged with graffiti that mime the pictographs of early humankind. Scaling those walls or passing those contemporary glyphs, Arnold gives us the measure of her body next to the massive contours of infrastructure. By inserting the dimensions of the human body into this scale, a simple but powerful observation is taking place. In this landscape we can see an intersection of history and the future, reminding us of our limits as well as our possibilities. It is here, in this world that we’ve made, that we confront the conundrums of modern life. It is hard to forget that these same roads that connect us are also those that keep us apart, as they simultaneously create and eliminate distance. Rebecca Horne February, 2013

Passenger Train, I-680, Benicia, CA 2012

Ikea Parking Lot, I-80, Emeryville, CA 2011

Under the Maze, I-80, I-580, I-880, Oakland, CA 2011

Aquatic Park, I-880, Berkeley, CA 2013

Freeway Door, Hwy. 101, Burlingame, CA 2013

Fake Rock, I-80, Rodeo, CA 2012

Writing, Hwy. 24, Oakland, CA 2011

Rainbow Tunnel, Hwy. 101, Sausalito, CA 2012

America, I-580, Oakland, CA 2011

Best Buy, I-580, Oakland, CA 2011

Cordelia Junction, I-80, Fairfield, CA 2012

By the Home Depot, I-880, Oakland, CA 2011

For Sale/Ice Plant, I-80, Oakland, CA 2011

Hide, I-80, San Francisco, CA 2012

Bart Platform, Crosses, Hwy. 24, Orinda, CA 2012

Arnold Point, I-80, Oakland, CA 2012

Shelter, Hwy. 101, Albany, CA 2011

Infinite Loop, Cupertino, CA 2013

Shadow Eye, I-80, San Francisco, CA 2012

Lay My Head, Hwy. 24, Walnut Creek, CA 2012

Refinery, I-80, Hercules, CA 2013


1973 Boulder, CO

SELECTED EXHIBITIONS: 2013 In/Finite Potential, Traywick Contemporary, Berkeley, CA 2012 Nothing to SeeHere, San Francisco Art Commission Gallery, CA Showcase, RayKo Photo Center, San Francisco, CA Beyond the Lens, Traywick Contemporary, Berkeley, CA The Silver Era, Southern Exposure, San Francisco, CA 2011 Snap, Bedford Gallery, Walnut Creek, CA Proof, Southern Exposure, San Francisco, CA Turf: Ecological Activism and Art, Diablo Valley College, Pleasant Hill, CA Outlandish: Contemporary Depictions of Nature, Bedford Gallery, Walnut Creek, CA 2010 Media Wall Public Art Program, Oakland Airport, CA East Bay Mini Maker Faire, Artist-in-Residence, Oakland, CA 2009 Non-Mart, Y2Y Gallery, San Francisco, CA Monster Drawing Rally, Southern Exposure, San Francisco, CA 2008 Holidayland, Blankspace Gallery, Oakland, CA 2007 Close Calls 2007, Headlands Center for the Arts, Marin, CA Commons: Artwork of the 2nd Wednesday Salon, Thoreau Center, San Francisco, CA 2006 Bay Area Shorts, The Israeli Center for Digital Art, Holon, Israel MacArthur Corridor Portraits, Mills College, Oakland, CA 2005 Photo-Based, Traywick Contemporary, Berkeley, CA Thirty Something, S.F. MoMA Artist’s Gallery, San Francisco, CA MFA Exhibition, Mills College Art Museum, Oakland, CA 2004 Murphy & Cadogan Fellowships, San Francisco Art Commission Gallery, CA Fourth Annual Cole Valley Film Festival, San Francisco, CA The Big Picture, Kala Art Institute, Berkeley, CA 2003 Some New Pictures: Johnna Arnold and Dennis Begg, Traywick Gallery, Berkeley, CA 2002 Group Show by Gallery Artists, Traywick Gallery, Berkeley, CA Post-Postcard 6, Southern Exposure, San Francisco, CA 2001 Post-Postcard 5, Southern Exposure, San Francisco, CA 2000 Group Show By Gallery Artists, Traywick Gallery, Berkeley, CA Salon on Salon, Place Pigalle; San Francisco, CA 1999 Commotion, S.F. Camerawork, San Francisco, CA Emerge, Presented by Gen Art S.F., San Francisco, CA 100 B&W International Photography Exhibition, Impression Art, Los Angeles, CA 17th Annual Exhibition, Alexandria Museum of Art, Alexandria, LA 1998 Midwest Photography Invitational X, Touring ten colleges and galleries, U.S.A. 1997 Cheap Art, Bread & Puppet, Glover, VT 1996 Sprout Creek Farm, Screening of a 30-minute video Documentary, Bard College, NY Appearance and Reality, BFA Exhibition, Proctor Arts Center, Bard College, NY

EDUCATION: 2005 M.F.A. Mills College, Oakland, CA. 1996 B.F.A. in Photography, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY AWARDS AND FELLOWSHIPS: 2012 Juror’s Choice Award, SNAP, Sandra Phillips, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art Honorarium, Nothing to See Here, San Francisco Art Commission Gallery SECA Award Nominee, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art Society for Photographic Education, Home Page Exhibition 2011 Juror’s Choice Award, Outlandish, Allison Gass, S.F. MoMA Center for Cultural Innovation & Creative Capacity Fund grant recipient 2010 BayVAN Registry, Oakland, CA Alameda County Arts Commission’s Small-Scale Commission Projects Artist Registry Center for Cultural Innovation & Creative Capacity Fund Quick Grant Recipient 2009 Juror, National Ethnic Media EXPO & Awards in documentary photography 2007 S.F. MoMA Artist’s Gallery Artist 2006 MacArthur Corridor Portrait Photographer, a photo-documentary project funded by the James Irvine Foundation. 2005 Graduate Studies Research Grant, Mills College; Oakland, CA Graduate Art Alumnae Scholarship, Mills College; Oakland, CA 2004 Cadogan Fellowship award, sponsored by the San Francisco Foundation 2003 Graduate Studies Research Grant, Mills College 2002 Artist-in-Residence, Kala Art Institute, Berkeley, CA SECA Award Nominee, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art 1999 Best Technical Photographer, Impression Art & Entertainment, Los Angeles SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY 2012 Kenneth Baker, “Wide Variety of Photography Exhibitions,” San Francisco Chronicle, December 19 Bonny Zanardi, “An Exhamination of Sites Often Overlooked” San Jose Mercury News, December 21 Judyth Collin, “Idealism, Community and Photography” Athenian Magazine, Fall Rebecca Horne, “Johnna Arnold”, Rebecca Horne Blog, March Willson Cummer “Johnna Arnold”, New Landscape Photography, October Obi Kaufmann, “Creative Process”, East Bay Express, March DeWitt Cheng, “Photo Prestidigitations”, East Bay Monthly, February 2010 Frances Tobin, “Expect the unusual at Maker Faire” Oakland Tribune, October 22 2009 Traci Vogel, “A Grab Bag of Shows Plays Santa to the Masses” San Francisco Weekly, Dec 16 2006 Patricia Wakida, “Portrait of a Neighborhood” Mills Quarterly, Fall 2005 2005 Tyler Green, “Miami: Ones I liked, Part Two,” Arts Journal: Modern Art Notes, Dec. 12. 2004 Jorg Colbert, “Johnna Arnold”, Conscientious Fine-Art Photography Blog Kelly Vance, “This Week,” East Bay Express, April 7. 2003 Lindsay Westbrook, “Some New Pictures,” San Francisco Bay Guardian, Nov 12. Kenneth Baker, “Traywick Transforming” San Francisco Chronicle, Nov 25. 2002 Lindsay Westbrook, “Minimal Aesthetic,” East Bay Express, Dec 18.

This Catalog is printed in conjunction with the exhibition In/finite Potential March 17 - May 18, 2013 Traywick Contemporary 895 Colusa Ave., Berkeley, CA 94707 (510) 527-1214 www.traywick.com All photographs are digital C-prints shot with a large-format 4x5” Camera 32” x 40” ed. of 5, plus 2 A.P. 48” x 60” ed. of 2, plus 1 A.P. All images © Johnna Arnold 2013 www.johnnaarnold.com Text © Rebecca Horne 2013 www.rebeccahornephotography.com Photo page 48 © Sean Olson 2013 Cover Image: Freeway Door, Hwy. 101, Burlingame, CA 2013

Profile for Johnna  Arnold

Johnna Arnold : In/Finite Potential  

Catalog of Johnna Arnold's series of photographs, In/Finite Potential, with an essay by Rebecca Horne. Copyright 2013

Johnna Arnold : In/Finite Potential  

Catalog of Johnna Arnold's series of photographs, In/Finite Potential, with an essay by Rebecca Horne. Copyright 2013

Profile for johnnak