In 2021, I had a serendipitous find--some denatured slides with interesting patterns. "Alchemy: Denatured Images" shows slide images taken by my uncle, Walter Wittman from a trip to Hungary in the 70's transformed into complex, surreal images. I had the photos printed on aluminum to further enhance the textural elements.
In 2018, I sponsored a Smartphone Photography Show by inviting amateur and professional photographers alike to submit their best shot, as long as it was taken on a Smartphone. What we found was incredible shots that you would not guess came from a telephone in your pocket. JW Johnston (not a relation) gave a packed workshop tips on taking and editing photos.
TRASH! A Collaborative ECO Art Exhibit was a collaborative show in June 2016. “I am fascinated with materials that most would call waste and creating something new from them,” says Peg Johnston, an artist at the Cooperative Gallery in Binghamton NY. TRASH! invited other artists, both local and national, to join a first- ever exhibit of Eco Art in this area June 2- 25th, 2016. Works using any of a variety of waste materials from paper to plastics, fabric to scrap metal, styrofoam to recycled wood were featured.
I am drawn to “conceptual art” and particularly creating installations that explore themes and connections, often within historical contexts. I want to get inside an idea and show what it feels like. Recent shows have been Binghamton: A Photographic Memoir; Book as Art; Wish You Were Here, an historical look at travel and vacations spanning three generations of family history; Art, Money, Love: Jane Freeman which included the art and social history of a portrait painter; and Lost and Found: The Texture of Life, a photographic exploration of quotidian texture; Images from our Industrial Past about the legacy of Endicott-Johnson to the Southern Tier. Another show called "Faithfully Yours" featured Elisabeth Freeman, a great aunt who was a suffragette, anti-lynching civil rights worker, and peace activist. I have kept up with her story through a website and a blog on her life at www.elisabethfreeman.org.
My 2015 show was a photographic exploration of 50-60 years of Binghamton history and the drastic changes that Urban Renewal brought. It was gratifying to see the response of appreciative audiences who responded to images of Binghamton "as it was," buildings being torn down, and the tentative renaissance is happening locally. The images were in black and white and were all digitized and printed in an intimate 8 X 10 format with a panorama of the hills of Binghamton overhead. For these images I mined my family's photographic archives, especially my father's, Bob Johnston, extensive collection.
For the “Book as Art” exhibit it is the form itself that I wanted to examine. I surround myself with books, reading voraciously, and savoring books. I am attracted to the physical paper and binding, as well as the illustrations and typefaces. But I don’t collect books, except as markers of my own history; actually, I am always looking for ways to share them or even get rid of them. Books have a hallowed place in my life but they are also disposable and some are ultimately ripe for recycling and adaptive re-use.
Handmade books reveal the many forms a book can take. When you create books to be objects of art you beg the question of what defines a book. I am taking delight in practical forms—scrap paper books, seed books, books that tell a simple story. I like to find a form that will fit the purpose of a book, as with the Abortion Rights Poetry Contest that I formatted for the three winners each year.
Although I like to work with handmade papers for their malleability, I am drawn to scrap paper and the unexpected beauty and variety of security envelopes—or data protection patterning as it is called. There is something serendipitous about making something fun out of paper that typically never gets a second look. I wonder who creates this patterning and if anyone notices the emotional range of these designs. There is scant research, but one artist obsessed with data protection patterning believes that the earliest example is from 1913 after the introduction of carbon paper, which allowed an invoice and receipt to be written at the same time. A Berlin-based printing house used a pattern based on Hebrew letters to obscure sensitive data.