For thirty years, one of the most consistent themes in Jo Ann Callis’s work has been domesticity. But her photographs and paintings of bathtubs, table settings, desserts, furniture, babies and dogs are highly suggestive, metaphorical and often disquieting. As Callis reminds us, domestic items such as furniture are designed to the proportions of the human body and are intended for our comfort, but her bathtubs are filled with goldfish, string beans, sailboats and parrots. Her beds have human forms protruding from within the mattress, or are constructed out of clay and brightly colored felt flocking. Her table settings are literally yanked away before our eyes as in her classic photograph, Dish Trick.
Callis recognizes that the majority of one’s life is spent in the home and that domestic objects bear witness to a spectrum of moments and memories from the trivial to the significant, from the comforting and nostalgic to the nightmarish. For Callis, these objects take on a life of their own, becoming even more complicated when viewed in juxtaposition to one another as in her black and white still life photographs such as Glove, Balloon, Shoehorn. In this context, presented almost as evidence, even a balloon could have sinister implications.
Another current that runs through Callis’s work is sexual innuendo. In one photograph, a man is doing push-ups on two chairs with a mirror below him; in another a woman wearing a pink slip holds a narrow flashlight on her thigh. In a series of color photographs of desserts entitled Forbidden Pleasures, a pair of delectable cream puffs topped with bright red cherries is playfully subtitled “Jayne Mansfield.”
In her sixth exhibition at Craig Krull Gallery, opening on May 23rd, the artist has assembled an overview of work that addresses these issues and compliments those works currently on view in her exhibition at the Getty Museum. In addition, Callis will present a new series of small paintings of clouds. Like her domestic objects, puffy white clouds can be comforting, but we’ve always been known to look for something more within their shapes and movements.