Category Archives: The Lost Estate of Ed “Johnson” Shepard

Associated Artists for Propaganda Research: Select Drawings from a History of Space and Communication (1926- )

In 2001 around the same time that I was working on the models I started a new series of pen drawings called Select Drawings from a History of Space and Communication (1926-  ). This is what I wrote about it on the website:

The basis of the project was to chronicle the development of the space race and to track the conglomeration and control of future mass medias.

The first series were of communication satellites but in 2002 I started the same series again but with pencil this time. I had a bunch of space exploration books to use as references and spent a lot of time researching what kind of imagery I wanted to re=represent; I picked images that appealed to my imagination and that I thought would be interesting to copy. These included images from important historical events, prototype spacesuits and even an image from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Like the models, I wasn’t interested in making great drawings or manipulating them to make them more creative or artistic but rather wanted to make drawings that were obvious copies from old photographs. I approached the copying of images as a legitimate type of creativity. To me it is an honest approach to making art that removes the creativity from the “act of making” and places it within the “idea” of art, the ability for the artist to be creative through the very act of selection and the attempts at creativity. Art doesn’t need to be about the ability to draw or the creativity of the artists hand but can rather be about the idea of the act, the re-contextualizing of the imagery for artistic purposes. I knew that copying photographs was as an artistic taboo, an amateur activity that would be difficult to pull off as respectable art but I saw this approach as one of many approaches to creativity that I wanted to explore in my art. I thought that by putting it under the Associated Artists for propaganda Research and giving it an impressive project title that people would look past the simplicity of the drawings and not just see them as poorly copied art objects but rather for the ideas that they represent and their relationship to a larger context. Here’s a quote from Douglas Crimp’s book On the Museum’s Ruins  about reproduction in contemporary art:  

through reproductive technology, postmodernist art dispenses with the aura. The fiction of the creating subject gives way to the frank confiscation, quotation, excerptation, accumulation, and repetition of already existing images. Notions of originality, authenticity, and presence, essential to the ordered discourse of the museum, are undermined.

I imagined the drawings as part of a larger installation that would include small scale models like Saturn V;I probably would have included some painting and large drawings as well. I wanted to frame them and create an installation that looked like a science exhibition that used a broad mixture of objects and paraphernalia.

I used these drawings for many proposals but they landed flat in the end. I think it was hard to imagine the final project and the drawings were lame to begin with. Overall, I think the idea was good and that the final installation could have been impressive but using these drawings as a representation of any kind of artistic creativity was probably a bad idea. The project ended up being used under other project names like Future Living Projects and The Lost Estate of Ed “Johnson” Shepard. For the most part The Lost Estate of Ed “Johnson” Shepard took over most of my “lameness” as creative art ideas that I wanted to do since that project became mostly about someone who made “bad” art. It wasn’t long after this that I started using more “impressive” model based landscape proposals to better represent the AAPR. A couple other projects came out of this one though including Sursum Corda (“Lift Up Your Hearts”) which is a large pixel drawing of the surface of the moon and a satellite dish and The Tower which is a large painting of a communication tower.

Below  are some of the early ink drawings and a composite of some of the 2002 pencil drawings.

Mariner E Relay-23 Syncom 11-22 Drawings in a grid

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Photograph in the Studio

Here’s a shot of me in the studio reading a book about Rembrandt. Actually it’s a recreation of an earlier shot that I took of myself in the studio that I wanted to use for the Links page of my new website. I decided that I wanted to use the paintings that are behind me as Links to the individual websites that they belong to. To the top left are 2 paintings from Future Living Projects. The top one is From Dawn To Dusk and the bottom one is At the Gates of Dawn. As I was hanging them I remembered that I had originally planned to make identically sized horizontal paintings that would be stacked on top of each other. This included (OL) and NewDawn Fades which didn’t get made until many years later but this is where the format originated. To the right of me is A History of Progress, Violence and the Modern Spectacle which I just finished and belongs to the Associated Artists for Propaganda Research. To my left, underneath the 2 Future Living Projects paintings are 3 paintings that my grandfather made that I painted UFO’s onto. I have yet to blog about these and they belong to The Lost Estate of Ed “Johnson” Shepard. Here is the photo.

Brian Higbee in the Studio

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New Website

I finished a new website today. Actually it’s a re-working of I’ve been working on it for almost a week. I decided that I wanted to minimize the amount of information on it and reduce the number of art pieces that I show. Most of the small scale models didn’t make the cut, which is unfortunate, but I felt that they just didn’t seem that impressive as stand alone pieces. I’d love to do a show one day of all small scale models of my larger work. One of the things that I struggled with was how to break down the categories and , in the end, I decided to break it down according to “organizations” and not by medium (ie painting, sculpture). I felt that using project titles represented what I was trying to achieve artistically better than if I broke it down by what materials I used. Here is what I wrote:

As an artist I’m interested in the creation and development of ideological organizations that act as conceptual contexts for projects and large bodies of work. I developed these projects to act as a network of interconnected ideas that address the complexities of multiplicity as a basis for the re-contextualization of contemporary aesthetics. In this way, I am interested in creating a network of visual languages and open meaning systems that both cross-purpose and cross-reference several ideas and objects simultaneously. Each of these projects generally use a wide range of materials and mediums such as small-scale models, drawing, painting, sculpture, text and computer generated images so instead of making categories that separate my work by the types of materials that I use, I restructured it into categories according to project titles.


Here are the 4 categories and explanations about each one.


Brian Higbee shows most of my paintings that use personal experiences of loss and disappointment as a basis for meditation and reflection. These experiences manifest themselves in my paintings as both the imagined landscape/object and within the titles, as fragments of conversation.


Associated Artists for Propaganda Research has its roots in politics and disinformation. It is political by nature and explores themes of propaganda, political dominance, corporate control and U.S. military prowess. It offers a critique of the political and economical disinformation distributed by those intent on protecting invested interests.


The Future Living Projects  is a concept revolving around architectural components and was created as a fictional yet defunct architectural firm from the 1970’s that re-imagines the possibilities of art and architecture in the distant future. In the future the struggle for space will be the struggle for survival.


The Lost Estate of Ed “Johnson” Shepard creates a fictional biography about an artist living in the late 70’s and 80’s. He’s a Vietnam vet who’s art explores notions of male masculinity and teenage fantasy, U.F.O.’s and space travel and ultimately, the horrors of the Vietnam War. He is a culmination of myself, my father and my grandfather.

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Application for NYFA in Photography

Yesterday I finished my application for the New York Foundation for the Arts grant for photography. I apply almost every year and I’ve never gotten a grant. This year the only category that I could apply for was photography. I was hesitant to apply, not really considering myself to be a serious photographer but I figured why not. I have used photography as art before under The Lost Estate of Ed “Johnson” Shepard but I figured that using it for the grant application would be confusing. I decided to do it under my own name. I have a lot of photographs from Pennsylvania from when I go back to hang out. For the application I thought it would be a good idea to establish a theme for the photographs and worked an a working statement that would be a concise explanation of the project. NYFA stresses that an artist apply with a fully worked out body of work that can be easily identifiable. I have a real problem with this since I don’t generally work like this and feel that my practice actually rails against this type of tendency. I try to embrace a multiple range of techniques and ideas in order to counteract branding as a commonplace art making philosophy. I feel that it is inherent within my art making philosophy to develop a type of multiplicity that can only be accessed through a complex network of interconnected yet different kinds of working ideas. This of course has caused endless amounts of difficulties for me when applying for anything. It never seems to make sense and I tend to lump similar looking objects together in an attempt at creating, what I think, is an understandable “body of work”. I consider myself essentially to be an installation artist, but this is a hard proposition to sell, and I’m forced to sell myself as something else.

Anyway here’s the working statement that I wrote and below that are a selection of photographs that I submitted as well as a description that I opted to write for each image which I thought added a narrative to each. None of it is a lie but I definitely thought about how to edit information in order to support the larger concept.

Being from rural Pennsylvania gives me personal access to experiences and situations that are simultaneously intimate and voyeuristic. Through photography I’m able to document the various people that I meet in my travels through rural Pennsylvania and capture the complexities of life as they exist for other people. The situations that I’ve been able to experience include the difficulties of aging, funerals, governmental eviction, destitution, celebration and fear. My photographs are accurate portraits of people as they exist in a particular place and time, and often, is the only remnant of a lost moment, a fragment that is long gone and never to return. 


Jason is not a racist. This is a Halloween costume that his mom made for his dad many years ago. The story was that his dad wore it to a Halloween party and, in completion of his costume, set a cross on fire out in the front lawn as a joke. Jason’s mom looked on in horror. Her African American friends were not amused.


I met Rick through a friend. He liked to stay up all night doing work while high on Meth Amphetamine. Sometimes he wouldn’t sleep for days on end. He went to jail for many years for beating up a gay man who he said was “hitting” on him and then punched a cop during the arrest. Here he’s fixing his backho at about 3:00 AM. Higbee08

Dale lost his arm when he was a teenager. In this photograph it’s 6:00 in the morning and he’s tired. He’s been working all night to try and salvage his pool from his house which is in foreclosure. The sheriff is coming in 6 hours to evict him and his family.


Allen retired from Chemistry in 1970 and spent the rest of his life painting landscapes. When he was young, he worked on the Manhattan Project at Columbia University before being sent to England as a bomb site specialist during World War II. He died in 2011 and left behind over 700 unsold paintings.



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The Lost Estate of Ed “Johnson” Shepard 1972-1991

Here is another project that I started back in 2007 called The Lost Estate of Ed “Johnson” Shepard 1972-1991. Here’s what I wrote about it:

The Lost Estate of Ed “Johnson” Shepard creates a fictional biography about an artist living in the late 70’s and 80’s. He’s a Vietnam vet who’s art explores notions of male masculinity and teenage fantasy, U.F.O.’s and space travel and ultimately, the horrors of the Vietnam War.

And here is the statement that I wrote for the website:

The Lost Estate of Ed “Johnson” Shepard is a conceptual website. It explores the semi-fictitious artwork of an artist living in the rural mountains of Pennsylvania from 1972 until 1991. I don’t know much about him except for some basic facts.He was a Vietnam vet and didn’t start making art until he was back from the war. Like most young men of his era he was fascinated by muscle cars, sex, rock and roll, guns and U.F.O.’s. He dissappeared in 1991. He is a culmination of myself, my father and my grandfather. The photographs were taken by my mother, the self-portrait is of my father and the paintings, without U.F.O.’s, are by my grandfather.

I started this project because I was interested in exploring other kinds of artwork outside of what I had already been working on, in particular on the creation of a biographical narrative which I had never done before. The ideas came first, mainly drawings of muscle cars and plastic model projects, and needed a context for these new ideas. I was interested in the idea of someone working as an “amateur” and how this could be re-contextualized into a conceptual framework. The name comes from my middle name, which is Edward, the street I live on, Johnson, and the street I grew up on, Shepard. I dated it 1972-1991 because 1972 is the year I was born and 1991 is the first year I was out of high school (I graduated in 1990). These years loosely represent my youth and I wanted to make artwork that took me back to this time when I was young and free from certain constraints. I wanted to imagine a time when someone was interested in simple pleasures like fast cars and sex but was also influenced by the unimaginable horrors of war and the intricacies of violence. I made “him” a Vietnam vet in order to shatter the innocence of his youth and to effectively halt his “natural” societal transition from being a teenager into being an adult. This young man is effectively forced out of the innocence of youth while still clinging to it and forced to face the realities of war, traumatizing him in the process.

For this project I developed a website and spent about a year making work for it. I made several drawing series including drawings of muscle cars, drawings from Vietnam War photos, pen and ink drawing of Gulf War aircraft (all using GE parts called GE: We Bring Good Things To Life) and included the space drawings that I had originally made for the Associated Artists for Propaganda Research. I made many models of fast cars which were all spray painted with a gloss black enamel finish. I made many painting of U.F.O.’s by using landscape paintings that my grandfather had made and painting U.F.O.’s on top of them. I first did this digitally and later, after my grandfather had died, painted directly on top of his paintings (with paint that could be removed if needed). I also include photographs that my mother had taken and photographs that I take as well. Below are some of the models that I made.

22 Jr. Dragster (Black Plastic Models) by Brian Higbee and The Lost Estate of Ed Johnson Shepard 22 Jr. Roadster (Black Plastic Models) by Brian Higbee and The Lost Estate of Ed Johnson Shepard 1965 Buick Riviera (Black Plastic Models) by Brian Higbee and The Lost Estate of Ed Johnson Shepard 1965 Chevy El Camino (Black Plastic Models) by Brian Higbee and The Lost Estate of Ed Johnson Shepard 1968 Dodge Charger (Black Plastic Models) by Brian Higbee and The Lost Estate of Ed Johnson Shepard 1968 Dodge Dart (Black Plastic Models) by Brian Higbee and The Lost Estate of Ed Johnson Shepard

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