Collection | Portals of Passion, Vermont Diptychs, USA, 2012
[On this map, the different places where Portals of Passion were photographed.]
Essay by Heather Oxley
If home is where the heart is, then love must be a place. The desire to make public our private feelings is an urge as ancient as the cavemen and women who carved their stories into rock. But with village community, came permanence of place. Passionate love became geographically situated. People built landmark structures to lend physical presence to their communities. These structures introduced an architectural element into the canvass of human passions; a space for secret meetings and lovers’ Rendez-Vous. This tension between public place and private passion is evident in Portals of Passion to reveal undercover love on the communal bridge.
The transitory nature of a bridge coupled with its cover provides the perfect architectural metaphor for a secretive fleeting passionate moment. Equally transitory is the viewers’ response to Portals of Passion. As spectators, we pass through the artist’s exhibition, then exit out into the light with our thoughts. While in the gallery, time is fluid; though the images belong to the moment, they refer to the past and imply the future. The imagery stimulates sentimental love and nostalgic memory; for whom amongst us has never carved the initials of a lover somewhere at some time? As we contemplate our secrets, it is only human to flash to the future and wonder: What ever happened to our past crushes?
The artist’s latest exhibit unites us emotionally, for “art is a jealous mistress, there is properly no history; only biography. All mankind loves a lover” (Ralph Waldo Emerson). No two loves are the same, some are fleeting, others prolonged. The feelings we experience are always personal to each lover. While Johnson’s images do not manufacture passion, they do propose to each one of us that, even though we may not be presently in love, we once were and still yet could be.
Johnson frames his photographs as diptychs to provoke us to actively engage with his images both publicly and privately. The use of single-point perspective entices the viewer through and beyond to a landscape framed by the bridge profile. Johnson`s tight focus on the lovers' carvings invite us to consider the commonality of human passions as we remember our personal stories. His choice of the ubiquitous iPhone camera facilitates a visual immediacy that captures a fresh perspective of this subject's essence.
Richard Johnson’s Portals of Passion is timelessly human because the honesty of his images is judged not by the actual fulfillment of fantastical love, but by the relevance of their sentimental romance to each spectator. The images speak to this secret place within all our hearts where lovers’ dreams dwell. For what man or woman has never been passion’s slave? The artist’s photographs take us all to the bridge where we can dive into our memories and contemplate, “for thy sweet love remembr’ed such wealth brings, that then I scorn to change my state with Kings” (William Shakespeare, Sonnets).