Jo Ann Callis (born 1940, Ohio) is an American photographic artist based in California. In the 1970s, she emerged as a key practitioner of the ‘staged photography’ movement, creating works replete with ‘oblique narrative’ and rich visual metaphors.
After her first marriage and the birth of her two children, Jo Ann enrolled at University of California, Los Angeles to study graphic design. While there, she was encouraged to ‘explore what was in her mind’ by the ‘paraphotographer’ Robert Heinecken.
Jo Ann currently works within the Photography and Media program at CalArts, where she has been working since 1975 – a year before she finished her MFA at UCLA.
Jo Ann went on to marry, divorce, and remarry artist David Pann during the 1980s. The turbulence of their early relationship is documented in her colour still-life photographs from the period;
“All those tumultuous still-lifes were during that period […] The picture of the woman standing on her hands is about performance and making it look easy. Which is life. We are always performing.” – Jo Ann Callis
Elsewhere, Jo Ann exemplifies the uncanny at the heart of familiar, domestic spaces. Employing surprising, disruptive symbols, her photographs seem to depict a world normally beyond perception – a phantom space steeped in sensuality and tension.
Jo Ann’s work has been widely exhibited in venues throughout the U.S. and internationally. In 2009, Woman Twirling, a retrospective of her work, was presented by the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.
Jo Ann has received three NEA Fellowships and a Guggenheim Fellowship, among other awards.