Jo-Anne Bates shares her love for South Africa in latest art installation
JO-ANNE BATES Artist Jo-Anne Bates takes people on a visual journey into music, jazz, Juneteenth and police brutality with her exhibit, “Exploration of COLOR 2.0: A Retrospective of Works by Jo-Anne Bates” at Pittsburgh 820 Gallery, at 820 Liberty Ave. It is a series of 20-plus mixed media prints swirled with heavy 3D texture that … Continued The post Jo-Anne Bates shares her love for South Africa in latest art installation appeared first on New Pittsburgh Courier.
Artist Jo-Anne Bates takes people on a visual journey into music, jazz, Juneteenth and police brutality with her exhibit, “Exploration of COLOR 2.0: A Retrospective of Works by Jo-Anne Bates” at Pittsburgh 820 Gallery, at 820 Liberty Ave. It is a series of 20-plus mixed media prints swirled with heavy 3D texture that showcases the pinnacle of Bates’ life experiences.
“This was work I’d done over the years—2017 through the end of 2022. During COVID I was confined so I did create several pieces that made it into the show,” said Bates, who was born and raised in Pittsburgh. “This work has been shown once before, in 2017, so that’s why it’s called a ‘Retrospective of Work.’”
Unlike her other works that usually were not very colorful—save for the color mallory blue—the new works are richer and more vibrant. Bates’ inspiration came from a life-altering trip she took to South Africa. The resulting pieces evoke feelings of happiness and hopefulness.
“It was an amazing, amazing experience. It’s color everywhere there: the clothing, the buildings, the jewelry, the soil. Color is everywhere. That was a real pleasure for me. It’s a powerful place. Especially for African Americans.”
Bates spent 17 days in the Rainbow Country in 2000-2001.
“Exploration of COLOR 2.0 A Retrospective of Works by Jo-Anne Bates” debuted at the winter 2023 gallery crawl and will run until April 30. The exhibit is free and open to the public. Bates’ works are also available for purchase. The 820 Gallery is one of five art galleries managed and programmed by the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust. The gallery showcases new curatorial and artistic voices in exhibitions throughout the year.
The exhibition came to fruition after members of the Cultural Trust went to Bates’ studio and saw all of the pieces she had on display there and asked her if she would like to have an exhibition. She was excited by the opportunity but was unable to create new work due to time constraints. Members of the Cultural Trust selected pieces of work for the exhibition and put the show together. A reception was held on Feb. 2.
“I’m really pleased at the way the exhibition is hung because you can walk around and see all of the pieces independently. They were extremely nice to me and helpful if I had any questions,” Bates told the New Pittsburgh Courier. “The reception was wonderful. There were a lot of people there and my birthday was a few days before and they even surprised me with a birthday cake.”
Bates became interested in art as a child. “When I was young, I was drawing and doing all kinds of crazy things and I decided I should study art and my parents said, ‘OK, if that’s what you want to do that’s fine,’ so I went to college to study art.”
Bates’ first exhibit was held at a bank in Squirrel Hill. “Most of my work is abstract. After I finished working under an instructor doing assignments and I began working independently on my own that’s when I started developing abstract prints.”
Bates spent 29 years teaching art in the Pittsburgh Public Schools system. She spent almost nine years at Brashear High School before completing her art teaching career at CAPA.
“CAPA was absolutely a wonderful, wonderful experience,” Bates said. “There were very, very talented kids there that didn’t realize that they were as talented as they were…most of the kids graduated and went on to college and won some scholarships, some full scholarships, some not full, but they went on to study art. One of my students is now the chairman of the art department in CAPA. Many of the students are doing great things.”
Bates attended West Virginia State College (now West Virginia State University), and upon graduating, she worked in PPS, then went to Temple University. She returned to Pittsburgh, working at Pitt with George Nama, who sparked her interest in printmaking.
“I was enrolled in a master’s program at the time. It was a regular class that I had and I done a project and he didn’t think it was that great, and I figured if he didn’t think it was that great, I wouldn’t get a good grade ,” she recalled. “So I went home and worked on another piece and took it back and he said, ‘this is what you should’ve been doing all along.’”
Bates also cited Pittsburgh-based wood sculptor and friend Thaddeus Mosley and painter Sam Gilliam as major influences in her artistic development.
In original printmaking—it can be etching or lithograph—one can make multiples of whatever the print is, but Bates’ prints are one of a kind.
“When I started doing these colorful pieces, folding and tearing, obviously I couldn’t do duplicates, so I started experimenting and working with the various techniques and folding and tearing and adding color here and there. It was just over time that I developed this process and adding the texture to it as I took my shredded paper and put it into the solution and put it on the paper. It takes time, you can’t do it in a day. Each color has to be dry before you can put the next layer on if you want everything to be independent. Then I put on black ink which makes the pieces stand out. That was my whole idea to not make them look so flat. All of the work starts with one big sheet of white paper and all of the colors are built up from there. With printmaking you’re never sure what you’re going to get.”
The avid traveler and reader, grandmother and great-grandmother of four has exhibited her work at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, Carnegie Museum of Art and numerous regional and national galleries. In 2017, Bates was named the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts Artist of the Year. She serves on various committees including the Carnegie Institute Museum, Education Committee, Chairman, Friends of the Arts for the Pittsburgh Public Schools. She is professionally affiliated with the Pittsburgh Print Group, Associated Arts of Pittsburgh National Conference of Artists, Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild, Society for Contemporary Crafts and Women of Vision.
She advises aspiring artists to get some art classes under their belts.
“You need to be involved in an art program,” Bates said. “If you have a background in art, it helps you to work in printmaking. Drawing, painting, sculpting and drawing background offers you different types of art classes and some of those would involve printmaking. There are so many different kinds of prints that you can make—what I’m doing is different, it can’t be taught. But you start with those, and you can make more than one. Just try different things and see what works.”
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