Since Jo Ann Callis emerged in the late 1970s as one of the first important practitioners of the “fabricated photographs” movement, Jo Ann Callis (American, born 1940) has made adventurous contributions in the areas of color photography, sculpture, painting, and digital imagery. For her, photography is another studio tool to be used, along with the sets she creates and the models she directs, to render the sensual tones and textures of fabric and food, or to animate clay figures of her own making. The persistent inventiveness of Callis’s work has made her a force in Southern California art and in recent photographic practice.
Callis began her art studies in Ohio in the 1950s, as a high school student in Cincinnati and in college at Ohio State University in Columbus. However, her academic work was interrupted by marriage, a move to Los Angeles, and child rearing. After taking several studio classes at night in an attempt to return to her education in painting and sculpture, she decided to enroll at UCLA and finish her undergraduate degree in the arts. She subsequently entered the graduate studio program. Her professor, Robert Heineken, encouraged her to experiment with photography in the studio, using her skills in the other arts to construct scenes for the camera. Callis began teaching at the California Institute of the Arts (Cal Arts) in 1976. A Los Angeles gallery show in 1981 paired Callis’s color work with that of Paul Outerbridge. Her avant-garde style of fabricating photographs was subsequently recognized, and her work exhibited and published internationally.
Callis developed her style not in imitation of Outerbridge, but she used his love of experimenting with color, his preference for creating work in the studio and constructing whole scenes to be photographed and his interest in images that appear to be beautiful and mildly seductive, before you realize something is not quite right.
Callis embraced working in color at a time when it was disdained by fine art photographers as a commercial gambit. Using mostly female models, with sets and props, she staged scenes suggesting desire and tension in her painstakingly printed Cibachromes. Now, photography of this sort has become the domain of artists such as Gregory Crewdson, Jeff Wall and Thomas Demand, who take advantage of digital technology.
Jo Ann Callis has exhibited her work at the Whitney Biennial in 1981 and Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; the University Art Museum in Berkeley; the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C.; the Santa Monica Museum of Art; the Min Gallery in Japan; and the Craig Krull Gallery in Los Angeles. In 2009 her retrospective, Woman Twirling, was on display at the J. Paul Getty Museum, the exhibition catalogue titled Woman Twirling was published by Getty Publications . Her work is in a number of permanent collections and has been published in The New Color Photography and Picture as well as the Anti Olympics, Summer 1985 and Objects of Reverie catalogues. She has received three NEA Fellowships, a Guggenheim Fellowship and a grant from the Cultural Affairs Office in Los Angeles for 2001-2002.
Official site: www.joanncallis.com