Jo Ann Callis has created vivid photographs. Both glamorous and fraught, they brim with saturated color and contrast, and examine the body and its proximity to the material and domestic world.
The photographs have depicted: a glistening chocolate eclair enfolded in the sheen of fabric, a triptych of steel wool, a deflated balloon and a gleaming metal shoe horn; a blackbird perfectly arching over a strawberry cake, a hand splayed in a puddle of honey, silver duct tape across a woman’s breasts, straw strewn across a white-sheeted bed, a young girl absentmindedly clutching a black washcloth, naked; two blush-red nipples reveled through torn bed sheet holes. The figures are fragmented and anonymous, their lithe bodies an object quality, somewhat waxen and pale, their curiosity for objects—liquid, adhesive, entwined, silken, polished, lacquered—fetishistic. The work amplifies the body’s haptic pleasure.
This early work in color has recently gained a new audience. Although not nostalgic per se, the retrospective appeal of the work is aided by its generic sense of the past, an indefinite ‘vintage’ seeming to be evidence of a secret photographic eroticism preceding the sexual present.
Sigmund Freud proposed the idea of the uncanny as a form of dread and estrangement born of repression—a dissonance provoked from that which is both familiar and peculiar. So too, the visual clarity of Callis’ work, emphatic and lapidary, alongside its often inscrutable ambiguity.
Looking at Photography par Stephen Frailey
Published par Damiani