Forbidden Pleasures from the series Cheap Thrills, 11" x 14", vintage cibachrome, © Jo Ann Callis
Viewing a work by Jo Ann Callis can be jolting. Callis refuses to allow her viewer to be lost in a world of mundane domesticity. Callis points to the sensational within the home where fowl fly from enflamed dinner plates, and goldfish swim amongst green beans in the kitchen sink. Many of Callis' constructed images from the late 70's through the early 90's rely on the use of food or the space of the kitchen and dining room.
In "Man at a Table, after David Evans," the white on white floral patterned tablecloth stained red from what appears to be a wine spill engulfing half of the table covering, brings to mind virginity and the wedding gown. Within the image, a man sits with his back to the table choosing to face the wall instead. Like many of the human subjects included in Callis' works, he maintains anonymity. Callis seems to insist on revealing very little about the human characters that inhabit these uncanny spaces. In "Black Tablecloth," the male and female seated subjects remain anonymous yet their body language juxtaposed with two breakfast bowls, one full and one empty, communicates volumes as to their interior emotional states.
Other works such as “Forbidden Pleasures,” entirely lack the physical presence of humans yet continue to call attention to gender and the body. The anthropomorphic pie holes, donut rounds and side by side cream puffs topped with cherries, placed upon household fabrics with textures, folds and creases allow one to practically feel the phallic and yonic objects oscillating between the desirable and the grotesque. Although Callis’ staging of imagery is quite controlled, the work continues to allow viewers their own space. “Dish Trick” connotes numerous narrative possibilities around the division of household labor, domestic spats and desires, and illusions of all kinds.
Selections from Callis’ “Forbidden Pleasures” were recently included in the exhibition “Nine X Nine In Color” at the Rose Gallery. Jo Ann Callis teaches at California Institute of the Arts including a class entitled “Art & Food.”
Salt, Pepper, Fire, 1980, 22 1/2 " x 17 1/2", Dye transfer print, © Jo Ann Callis
Goldfish and String Beans, 1980, 17 1/4" x 22 3/4", Dye transfer print, © Jo Ann Callis
Man at Table, after David Evans, 1977, 14 1/8" x 17 5/6", Chromogenic print, © Jo Ann Callis
Black Tablecloth, 1979, 16 3/4" x 21 1/4", Dye transfer print, © Jo Ann Callis
Dish Trick, 1985, 29 15/16" x 40 1/16", Cibachrome print, © Jo Ann Callis