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Borland Gallery Photography Exhibit Takes “Shot in the Dark”

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Photographing people, including herself, in frank and engaging situations, is the heart of the work of Barbara Johnson, a senior in the B.F.A. photography program. Her work is featured in a solo art exhibit, Shot in the Dark, in Borland Gallery on the University Park campus, December 4-18, 2009. The gallery is open Monday–Friday, 8:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m. Reception is Friday December 4, from 4:00-6:00 p.m. and is free and open to the public.

A Washington, Pa., native, Johnson thought her future was in music, perhaps as a flutist. Then she took a photography class taught by Penn State art education alumnus Mark Marietta at Trinity Area Senior High School and was inspired by his passion for photography and his encouragement to explore the art. Johnson continued to study under Marietta and says that his ties to Penn State led her to apply to the University.

Johnson discovered that photography served as more than just an art form. Once considered shy, she allowed her photos to show a side that her quiet personality kept silent. “I have grown over the past five years and so has the content of my photos,” says Johnson. “Personal issues that trouble me are released in my images.”

Not one to shrink from controversy, Johnson photographs people, but not the picture-perfect models of magazines and movies. Rather, her images reflect the average person, revealing their flaws and imperfections. “I don’t see the flaws as weaknesses,” says Johnson, “but more as a strength of character of that individual.” Her self-portraits are a testament to this, revealing the confidence she has developed in her own body. Using provocative images of nudes, Johnson hopes to open a public dialogue with viewers regarding relationships and sexuality.

After graduation in December 2009, Johnson plans to travel back to Rome, where she had studied abroad as part of Penn State’s Sede di Roma program. She says the Italians’ perspective of sexuality and the human body mirrors her own viewpoint and she would like to immerse herself in that enlightened environment again. Johnson also plans to hold more solo and group exhibitions as part of The Artists’ Co-op in Pittsburgh before she begins graduate studies. “Ultimately, I hope to teach photography,” says Johnson. “I want to provide a nurturing environment for students yet encourage them to explore and push the boundaries of their comfort zones.”

Contact: Flora W. Marynak, fwm1@psu.edu or 814.863.0621