Gestures Redux: Recent Work by Jo Weiss
Washington Studio School Gallery
March 4 - April 15, 2016

What Has Been Done, by Jo Weiss
What-has-been-done, 2016
mixed media on panel, 36 x 23"

"A hand as Open as day..."

The human hand persists in reigning over other parts as an incorruptible instrument of communication. With a sweep of the hand, whole parables may be summoned. Every emotion can be conjured through the gesture of a hand. Speech is the hands only rival. Signing with eloquent silence, hands enrich words as messengers of the spirit's most subtle moods creating a reach of consciousness.

The work in this show originated as a studio exercise while experimenting with new materials. Transcribing a Deposition from the Cross by Titian, I eventually erased everything but the hands. The power that remained inspired me to explore works by other artists using the same theme. What remains are rhythms, patterns, and paths. Each individual gesture is capable of denoting a consequence of action.

Gestural expression has always been an element of my work, and in the series of the hands, whether the image retains the full figure or not, the hands remain as the major source of expression. Gestural expression is also found in the action of the artist's hand, regardless of subject, so there is a continuum of "reach for consciousness."

The Washington Post - May 2012

Sacrificing creatures for humans' comfort
by Mark Jenkins

Demoiselle Dawn, by Jo Weiss
Demoiselle Dawn, 2010, oil on canvas
Jo Weiss

Local painter Jo Weiss is hardly the first artist to liken dancers to birds. But where "Swan Lake" combines avian and human, Weiss’s "Gestures" divides the two - and seems more compelled by wings than limbs. Her exhibition at Washington Studio School includes a few pictures of bending womanly forms and more than a dozen of cranes at sanctuaries in India and Wisconsin. Their gestures are fluid and elegant as the paintings that capture them Most of these are oil, but Weiss also uses acrylic, ink, crayon and more, working on linen canvas and occasionally, paper. The variety of media is matched by the range of styles – from impressionist to expressionist, and sometimes in the same picture. The striking "Demoiselle Dawn," for example, conjures flight with sideways strokes, while vertical paint drips add to the overall feeling of movement. "Flight," in pencil and gouache on paper, is a study in black and luminous grays that suggest Asian scroll paintings. Others are more realistic, but all are linked by the themes and visual poise.

JO WEISS: Exploring Form and Movement
by Amanda Lineweber May, 2012

Golden Crane, Jo Weiss
Golden Crane (Double Lift), 2010, oil on linen

Even a cursory glance at art history will show that across both time and geography artists have been gripped by the diverse imagery of the crane. Artists in ancient Asian and Arabic nations, Greece, Native American and Inuit cultures, and more all included this graceful bird in their work, as well as their mythologies.

Jo Weiss, an artist based in Georgetown, would be happy to tell you all these facts and more, for cranes have inspired her as well. She has filled the main-floor gallery of the Washington Studio School with paintings exploring the form, movement, and landscapes of the crane. Though the paintings are all recognizable as Weiss’ style, each of these explorations produced vastly different artworks.

Several of the pieces function as portraits of a sort, realistically depicting one or two birds. Also, Weiss has included in the exhibit studies of female figures as they bend forward. These were painted in order to explore relationships of physical form and are highly related to her crane portraits.

Weiss found her inspiration for this body of work during several trips to crane sanctuaries in Wisconsin and in India. During these visits she made several study drawings and took photographs to serve as reference points for the paintings she created later in her studio. The fact that Weiss spent so much time observing cranes is especially evident in her many paintings of cranes in flight which depict a sense of movement that can only be understood in person. Especially lyrical and graceful, these works capture the beauty of the birds’ movement. Vertical Rise, hidden at the top of the staircase, and Golden Crane (Double Lift) are particularly lovely, but Weiss’ large graphite and gouache on pencil, Flight, is the most successful in capturing a crane’s very moment of takeoff. Throughout this series, Weiss uses realism, lyricism, and once even a blocky near-abstraction to depict the birds as they fly.

When the artist and I discussed her body of work she explained that she became interested in the cranes because of their similarity to the human form. For Weiss, the cranes became a new, more original medium through which she could continue to explore ideas of movement and posture. Yet now, she has gravitated towards the human form again. Weiss doesn’t think the cranes will leave her mental imagery, but their future in her artworks is unsure.

One of the most recent works in the show is a partially-abstracted painting of Jodhpur, the blue city of India. Since Weiss has been interested recently in the compression of forms the compact city was an ideal subject. If this piece is at all telling, the next works out of Weiss’ studio will be engrossing and stirring, new manifestations of her sustained interest in the relationships she finds between movement and form in all things.