Spotlight Series: Jo Ann Callis

August 17, 2017

“I remember parting her hair and carefully drawing the black line from the top of her head down to her waist in one gesture. I was thinking about what it would feel like to be on the receiving end of that drawn line. It might give a pleasant little chill up the spine and visually it left the door open to interpretation.”

A thin, black line runs down a woman’s pale back, beginning in a mass of blonde hair, at the point where the head curves coyly away from sight. Jo Ann Callis created the composition as part of a body of work exploring and expanding the notion of fetish. Evoking a sensory response, the woman’s back tenses with the texture of the bones visible beneath. The delicateness of the uncovered back evokes an even stronger sense of intimacy when the eye slowly moves down the thin line. When Callis drew the line down her back, she thought not only of the image, but also of the subject’s experience, thinking of what kind of sensations arise with the touch of the pen’s smooth gesture moving down the naked back. 

Jo Ann Callis,  Woman with Blond Hair, 1977

Jo Ann Callis, Woman with Blond Hair, 1977

In both the hair and the line running down the back, the sense of splitting is omnipresent. The slit, suggestive in its form, insinuates what lays just below the frame of the composition. Insinuating a strong sense of sexual intimacy, Woman with Blond Hair, 1977 evokes the fascination of fetish through what is both visually present and implied.

Written by Zoe Lemelson.

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