Interview / 5?s 4: Jo Ann Callis, Artist/Photographer…
1] Does your work sometimes surprise you, or take its own direction?
1. Making work and hopefully resolving the problems that occur in the process is always somewhat of a surprise. I don’t think one can ever translate exactly what is in one’s head into a completed artwork. The challenge and the fun of it is to respond to what is in front of you and continue to do that until it is finished. I am always learning from what happens unexpectedly. Sometimes it comes out better than expectations and many other times it is somewhat disappointing and needs to be wrestled with.
2] How do you see your work growing/changing/stabilizing in the future?
2. I never know for certain what I will produce in the future or even if I will produce in the future. (I have been making art since I was 8 years old however, so that is a pretty good track record.) When I think I know, I am often surprised because somewhere along the way I change materials or reject the idea as unworkable, or uninteresting. Having a good idea is one of the most exciting aspects of art making. It is like falling in love. In my head I see it as perfect, absolutely wonderfully satisfying in all ways. The difference between that initial excitement and the reality of the work in the physical world is often the result of a struggle. All art experiences are beneficial in some way, no doubt, but are far from perfect like the idea was in my mind’s eye.
3] What was the best advice you ever gave your students, or a colleague, about their work? What is the best advice you've received about your own work?
3. I don’t know what the best advice I have given to another artist would be, but a teacher I had in high school said to me that being an artist would affect my experiences over a lifetime. He said one would see the world through new eyes and it would enrich one’s life with new ideas and creative energy. It sounds so clichéd, but it has been true, and I am so glad I chose to do this in my life. It wasn’t actually a choice because I never felt that I could do anything else well. I am very lucky and grateful that I could pull it off for so long.
4] How do you use your personal inspirations in your work?
4. I cannot exactly say how I use my ‘inspirations’ in my work, other than to say that what I am at any given time, or what I have thought about or looked at is in my work because it comes from either my ideas or my experiences and my feelings. What else is there?
5] If you were an art critic, how would you describe your current exhibition?
5. My current exhibitions at the Getty and at Craig Krull Gallery include examples of some of my work made over a long period of time. Neither show is a comprehensive showing of what I have produced, by any means, but a sampling of some ideas that have run through my work from 1974. My most recent small cloud paintings are now up at the gallery, as well as a few large paintings of baby heads. The continuity of my interest in interiors, both literally and metaphorically is always present. My love of the tactile quality of things pictured and how the sense of touch and taste play a part in making the viewer notice common objects in a new way, and also sensing the relationships we have with those objects. There is beauty, tension, and sometimes humor at various times. It is a matter of conjuring the most with the least that challenges me.
Exhibition: “Woman Twirling” The Getty Center, March 31-August 9, 2009, www.getty.edu
Exhibition: “Photographs and Paintings” Craig Krull Gallery, May 23-June 27, 2009 www.craigkrullgallery.com
Image: Parrot and Sailboat © Jo Ann Callis 1980