Jo-Ann M. Acey is a Brooklyn-based artist whose work is representative of her quest for beauty and her responses to nature. Land, sea, and symbolism come alive in most of her paintings, drawings, and prints which document her memories and create magical places out of personal events. Jo-Ann uses a variety of mediums including watercolors, pastels, oils, and acrylics and she holds an MFA in Painting and Drawing from Texas Tech University. Aside from being an artist, Jo-Ann also taught art for over thirty-five years and is the creator of an art curriculum for the nationally acclaimed Studio in a School Program and the United Nations International School in NYC. For her efforts, Jo-Ann was awarded a “Sustained Achievement Award For Artists Who Teach” and her work has been exhibited throughout the world.
In February of 2017, Jo-Ann enjoyed a show at the 440 Gallery titled “La Luna” which featured a new series of her pastel drawings. “La Luna” is Jo-Ann’s first solo exhibition with the gallery. Recently, she discussed her experiences and her hopes for the future of her artistic career:
Meagan Meehan (MM) of Entertainment Vine: What set you on the path to becoming an Artist?
Jo-Ann Acey (JA): I think I always knew I was a creative thinker – I was always making things and drawing pictures. I noticed details, enjoyed the “make believe” of childhood. My parents encouraged my creative instincts.
MM: When you were growing up, what artists and works inspired you?
JA: The Munson William Museum was across the street from my school. It opened up my world – I was quite taken by the works of Rothko, Kandinsky and several modern artists. Before that, I knew so little about the broader art world– I wanted to see and to understand more. A few years later I traveled to Europe on a drawing tour. Around that time I began to formulate my own approach to art and my process.
MM: How can you describe your artwork and its style?
JA: That’s a complicated question! My work is an accumulation of many things. My love of nature and childhood memories of home play a major role. The motion, light and color inspire me. I see line, shape, and patterns everywhere in the landscape. Although, most of my work has some reference to a dwelling place, land, sea, or sky, almost always it deviates from the obvious. It becomes a dream, a glimpse, and personal response to what my imagination and eye has stored for a later time. Some may call it abstract, but there is always a connection to a real event or place. The initial stimuli become secondary. Spontaneity and movement remain vital to the works.
MM: How did you initially get your art into galleries and public showcases?
JA: Getting work shown is a constant challenge and goal. I continue to research and am often shown in “Open Calls”, curated and theme shows several times a year. Networking is very important. Visiting galleries and other artist’s studios keep you aware of what is happening and what kind of work galleries might be looking to show. I feel very fortunate to be a member of the 440 Gallery. It has allowed me to exhibit my art to new audiences. It has open doors and given me an opportunity to broaden my artistic opportunities. Being part of 440 Gallery is an opportunity to work with artists who are working in a variety of media. I am a member of the Gowanus Arts – my studio is located in the Gowanus area of Brooklyn. That’s another outlet to meet artists and exchange ideas. I participate in the annual Gowanus Open Studios.”
MM: You have a solo show at the 440 Gallery. How did you get involved with that Venue?
JA: About a year and a half ago the gallery put out a call for new members. I showed my portfolio and met with some of the members. I was so happy to be chosen as a member. Working with this group of artists has been a wonderful experience. My first show at 440 was the New Member Show. Since then I have participated in three group shows. I am very excited about my Solo Show, “La Luna”.
MM: Is there an old piece of art that you’re especially proud of?
JA: I did a series called “The Journey Home” several years ago. It ended up being a Solo Exhibition. The work revolved around the idea of home as an inner dwelling place. I implemented very personal childhood memories. In a way, it was a self- portrait. “The Journey Home” enabled me to think about my work as a visual diary – documenting and sharing ideas. The work employs recognizable images, but they are used symbolically, or as metaphor.
MM: What is your favorite medium and what one would you most like to experiment with?
JA: I love oil paint and pastel. I especially enjoy working on canvas and a variety of papers. For me, it is not really about one medium over another, but what kind of image I want to create at any given time. I use watercolor often and recently began to experiment with the printmaking process. Hopefully, I can further explore different printing techniques.
MM: What is the most rewarding aspect of being an artist?
JA: My art has given me the opportunity to express myself in unique ways. It is a constant – I feel a need to keep creating. It can be a bit frightening to put it out into the public, but it has to be shared. I think my work makes people happy and they begin to enter into my world, or even better, my art is a vehicle for them to tap their own inner space.
MM: What advice can you offer someone who is hoping to become an artist?
JA: Keep working. Trust in yourself. Take chances. Experiment, explore materials and don’t limit yourself. Begin to build networks. Invite other artists to visit your studio. Enter shows,
and visit galleries. See as much art as you can. Create from within and think outside the box!