The Stink of Righteousness from the series Veronica's Cloths Sculpture by K Johnson Bowles

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The Stink of Righteousness from the series Veronica's Cloths

K Johnson Bowles

United States


Size: 16 W x 16 H x 2 in

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Art Description

Sculpture: Fabric, Plastic, Metal on Soft (Yarn, Cotton, Fabric), Plastic, Other.

While this body of work is not about a particular religious belief or cannon, 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 – an uncanny valley.

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, Huipil Grande Traje de Gala of the Istmo de Tehuntepec tradition and other types of resplandors, religious shrines, Baroque art, 17th Century Dutch still life paintings, Haitian Voudou flags, and African power figures (nkisi) of Kongo tradition.


K. Johnson Bowles has exhibited in more than 80 solo and group exhibitions nationally. Feature articles, essays, and reviews of her work have appeared in more than 30 publications around the country including SPOT (Houston Center for Photography), Sculpture, Fiberarts, and the Houston Post. She is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Individual Fellowship and a Houston Center for Photography Fellowship. Recently, she served as a fellow at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts in Amherst, VA and at the Visual Studies Workshop (Rochester, NY). She received her MFA in photography and painting from Ohio University and BFA in painting from Boston University.

Published in
Superstition, Issue 25, May 2020, Arizona State University, Mesa, AZ