At first glance, Julia Haywood’s Mountains, Cities, and Temples seems solely observational. The massive mountain forms, the study of different patterns, the city skylines—Haywood’s travelogues could have been an inventory of impressive sights from her expeditions. But the exhibition, on view through June 8 at Indigo Sky Community Gallery, is more than a reconstruction of marvels. Haywood promises to explore the mountains, cities, and temples of far-away lands, and she does so—but not from a physical standpoint. The artist uses the topography, art and architecture—the tangible—as a conduit for her own mindset. The exhibition presents a journey from mountains (physical) to cities (man) to temples (spiritual). Haywood looks outward to look inward.
The titles of the works point to the artist’s extensive travels. Hanoi, Prague, Hayama, Tibet, and Jaipur are only some of the places represented in the exhibition. An article written in 2000 on Haywood and her travels mentions how she had to crowdsurf a swarm of people to exit a train overseas. So, when viewing Mountains, Cities, and Temples, one may question the absence of people. It’s in this distinction where Haywood’s ability to reveal humanness without using the human figure exists. The dark heaviness of Prague Cityscape, one of the longest works in the exhibition, lacks a human presence despite being set in a major city. Buildings overlap and the blackness of the charcoal overshadows the tan of the paper, the skyline interrupted only by the occasional pattern. The scene, then, feels stagnant and ominous. As is true in life, this scene appears only as a visualization of Haywood’s thoughts and feelings. Her mountains, cities, and temples are a matter of perception—and therein lies the human presence.
Haywood does not completely deny the viewer a tangible representation of the human presence, though. In Hanoi Temples, the temples are not viewed straight-on but at their corners, showing the presence of the human hand through Haywood’s acknowledgement of the construction of the architecture. Many of the works are peppered with mathematical equations, some hidden beneath layers of charcoal, one with a whole page from a calculus book plastered on a panel. On Tibetan Temples, there are cutouts of small chess boards and phrases such as “Pawn to King’s fourth square.” The first panel of Prague Reliquary is a collage of cutouts from texts in different languages. Strips of paper on Rocks Near Hayama #9 list artists’ names, such as Dorothea Lange, Toya Miyatake, and Hirsohi Hamaya. And, every so often, there are notes from Haywood, handwritten in blue ink, transcribed over the layers of paper and medium. These elements show the transitory nature of the human presence. The snippets, which are cut off and taken out of context, demonstrate a kind of misplacement and insignificance—a feeling that many travelers have during their lifetime. By juxtaposing the natural and the man-made, Haywood illustrates the precarious relationship between land and man.
Travel journals aren’t uncommon. What sets Mountains, Cities, and Temples apart is its meditation on human nature through subtleties of perspective and perception. The organic lines of the mountains, the delicate curves of observed patterns, and rigid type of printed text combine to create an exhibition that delves into the mind of the individual and collective human experience.
Mountains, Cities, and Temples remains on view at Indigo Sky Community Gallery until June 8.