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NOT REAL ART 2022 Grant Winner Jo-Ann Morgan: The Fiber Artist Paying Tribute to Victims of Violence
Episode 2264th July 2023 • Not Real Art • Crewest Studio
00:00:00 00:50:04

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Some artists are rebels at heart. Today’s guest, Jo-Ann Morgan, found her inner iconoclast as professor emeritus of African American studies and art history at Western Illinois University. Jo-Ann is also a professional fiber artist and one among six winners of NOT REAL ART’s 2022 artist grant. Established in 2019, the grant is awarded annually to six working artists who push the boundaries of what’s possible in the art world. Today, host and NOT REAL ART founder Scott “Sourdough” Power sits down with Jo-Ann Morgan to discuss the evocative fiber work that netted her a spot as one of last year’s grant winners. 

“I usually don't like to talk about work until it's done,” says Jo-Ann, whose elaborate wall hangings are lovingly stitched in remembrance of violence victims. Works like “Daddy Changed the World” and “Elegy for Elijah” commemorate George Floyd and Elijah McClain, who both recently died at the hands of police in separate encounters. Similarly, "Lady Corona Comforts the Children" depicts a maternal apparition who watches over the children separated from their parents at the US/Mexico border. 

“There's always something going on that is worthy of remembering,” says Jo-Ann, who adopted her signature social justice art after becoming an art historian. “I learned a lot from researching the African American artists of the late sixties,” she says, explaining her urge to rebel against the dominant “Western traditions” typically taught in art school. The artists she studied as a historian made a concerted effort to avoid “Neoclassical art, to develop their own vocabulary, way of working, themes, subject matter that was germane to the African American experience.”

A full-time working artist, Jo-Ann is also the author of The Black Arts Movement and the Black Panther Party in American Visual Culture and Uncle Tom’s Cabin as Visual Culture. Tune into today’s episode with Jo-Ann Morgan to hear about the artist’s ongoing series of wall hangings intended to honor the 19 student victims at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas. 

Key Points From This Episode:

  • Introducing visual artist and NOT REAL ART grant winner, Jo-Ann Morgan.
  • How Jo-Ann returned to artmaking during the pandemic.
  • What drew her to apply for the NOT REAL ART Grant.
  • Jo-Ann’s art background and why she feels compelled to rebel against Western art standards.
  • What she learned from researching African American artists of the late sixties.
  • How the art world has evolved since Jo-Ann studied fine art.
  • Insight into Jo-Ann’s art-making process.
  • What drew her to the world of academia and teaching art history.
  • Her journey from artmaking to academia and back.
  • How the Black Lives Matter movement inspired the content of her art.
  • Jo-Ann describes her piece, Elegy for Elijah.
  • Why she typically doesn’t like to talk about work until it's complete.
  • The collection she’s working on in honor of the 19 child victims of the Uvalde school shooting.
  • Jo-Ann elaborates on her creative process and workflow.
  • An observation about her fellow art history students, who didn't appreciate art or artists.

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