Necessity, they say, is the mother of invention. It is also the mother of reinvention. Two years ago, Jo-Ann Brody’s husband left her—an emotional blow that changed her life. Full of fury, she set to work on a series of pieces titled Three Steps Forward (with the unspoken implication, Two Steps Back). “It began as an angry show,” she acknowledges.
But as she got deeper into her work, and spent more time in reflection, she began to change the focus of the show. “I threw it all out the window, but I was stuck with the title.”
Through many years as wife and mother, Jo-Ann had sculpted female forms emphasizing stance and gesture. Now she was inspired to put more emphasis on shape. Her forms grew more massive, brooding— they appeared pregnant, suggesting new creativity. She even cannibalized earlier pieces and placed them inside the new work, which went on display last month at the Ceres Gallery in New York City.
“Now it really is a stepping forward, a significant stepping forward in my art,” she says.
Jo-Ann majored in art at Reed and wrote her thesis, Gesture of the Human Form, with Lloyd Reynolds [English and art 1929–69], who was a tremendous influence. “I absorbed everything I could from him,” she says. “Somewhere I still have a paper I wrote for an art history class, where he wrote, in his vermilion calligraphy, ‘Good, but almost too short.’”
Living now in Peekskill, New York, Jo-Ann is an artist-in-residence with the New York Public School system and works in her studio most days. “It’s very satisfying,” she says. “We are blessed when we can do something we like for work.”