Glass artist Ben Johnson is shooting for the moon in his upcoming solo exhibition at iMOCA CityWay. His newest body of work, entitled Spacetime, follows the phases of the earth's celestial partner through the lunar cycle in his vitreograph prints.
Johnson, 34, has riffed on the moon before in his exhibited work — such as in the blown and sandblasted "Moonfield," which he exhibited at Carmel's ArtSplash Gallery in 2013. This particular work maintained a vessel form while suggesting the moon's shape, it also suggested a lunar mirror of sorts, turned upon Hoosier corn country in the dead of winter.
Likewise, Spacetime isn't just about the moon, but about man's place in the universe and on Earth.
"You're looking at how the time changes in our environment," says Johnson. "It's about the smaller organisms that we can't see and how environmental pressures are affecting them and how we don't pay attention to them until there's obviously something wrong. ... It's about our place in this larger scheme."
But Johnson, chair at the Indianapolis Art Center (IAC) Glass studio since 2014, isn't exhibiting blown glass at all in this exhibition, even though he's earned quite a reputation in the practice of this art with his bold colors and richly-textured — often sandblasted and acid-etched — glass surfaces.
Instead, he will be showing his moon-inspired work on 20 prints realized through vitreography. (This is the art of printmaking using a thin glass matrix instead of more traditional printmaking methods.) Also on display will be 7 glass plates that he used in the printmaking process.
"I've hung stuff on the wall before but most of the stuff has been 3D pieces, blown glass, because that's normally what's associated with me," says Johnson.
This will be the first time that Johnson will be exhibiting non-glass media. But it is certainly, he says, an outgrowth of his glass-making practice.
And the Indianapolis Art Center has also been in the forefront of displaying cutting-edge glass work. Take, for example, the rich variety of media and styles and subject matter in the Contemporary Glass from the Heartland show in the fall of 2015 at the IAC.
This particular juried show from last year also had selections of Johnson's work (as does the current Art from the Heartland exhibition at the IAC) which is not at all surprising considering Ben Johnson's considerable standing in the world of contemporary glass. Also not surprising is his inclusion in the 200 Years of Indiana Art exhibition at the Indiana State Museum.
Johnson's work is also regularly featured in exhibitions across the country, and he's had his work featured in spreads in Art Glass Today and other publications.
In his teaching at the Art Center, Johnson and his cohorts have developed classes that take off in some directions that might be surprising to some people more used to the vases on their fireplace mantels than to the latest innovations in the contemporary glass world.
In the past semester at the IAC, there was — to cite just one example — a painting on glass class.
"Glass as a medium has the ability to cross into other mediums at the building of the art center because of its versatility," says Johnson. "And I don't really think you could say that many of the other mediums as inclusive are as glass can be."