ARTIST STATEMENT: VERONICA’S CLOTHS
By K. Johnson Bowles
While this body of work is not about a particular religious belief or canon, the series title takes its name from the St. Veronica legend. It is said Veronica wiped Christ’s face with her veil during his journey carrying the cross. The image of his face miraculously left an impression on the cloth. The series Veronica’s Cloths explores the residual nature of physical and emotional trauma in a contemporary context of my experience as a woman.
The works represent flashes in the mind’s eye and suggest an untold drama of violation, loss, anger, grief, pain, and shame. The images are photographs of details from paintings displayed in museums. These details taken out of context suggest clues to a more complex narrative drama and beg the question, “what happened?” I’m searching for truth and seeking healing from what haunts me.
Each work is a collage assembled on a vintage handkerchief in a manner purposefully pointing to that which is “grandmotherly,” wise, and reflective. The unexpected juxtapositions of familiar materials, emotionally-charged images, and menacing objects (insects, spiders, snakes) are designed to attract and repel the viewer.
The works are informed by my heritage as an Irish-American (non-practicing) Roman Catholic and my beliefs in feminism, secular humanism, and social justice. Writings on phenomenology, ontology, hauntology, and semiotics provide theoretical underpinnings. I admire contemporary vernacular art, Mexican retablos, religious shrines, Baroque art, 17th Century Dutch still life paintings, Voudou, and African power figures (nkisi) of Kongo tradition.
K. Johnson Bowles