Artist Jo-Anne Bates explores color and more


Explosions of color, barely contained by their jagged, black-lined borders, mark the work of Jo-Anne L. Bates, now at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center’s Feldman Family Artspace. Titled “Exploration of Color,” her eight abstract, mixed-media monotypes will remain on display until Sept. 17.

An Oak Bluffs summer visitor, Bates won the 2017 Artist of the Year award at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts. She lives in Pittsburgh in the off-season, where she taught at the Creative and Performing Arts High School for 29 years. A recent visit to South Africa had a major impact on Bates. It inspired her to use extreme and bold color combinations in her confetti-like work. She adds sculptural elements to her monotypes with folded paper, glue, shredded junk mail, and multiple layers of ink and texts. As she observes in her artist’s statement, new and different ways of incorporating text have helped her convey “the verbal injustices often directed at young African Americans.”

The artist prints the titles of the works across their surface, but she integrates them into the composition so that while they deliver a statement, it’s not in your face. The angular borders of “YO BROTHA YOU DA ONE,” with yellow as its primary color, give it a power that extends beyond the title. In “A NOIR LIFESTYLE,” black and white lines bounce out from a background of blues and green. As abstract as this monotype is, it’s hard not to visualize in its shape a torso with arms akimbo and racing legs. But that is the fun and energy Bates’s work inspires.

With purple squares along several of its borders, “BLACK EXPLOITATION” has a more formal feel than the other monotypes. “FRAGMENTATION” has two vertical rectangular shapes lined up next to each other, making it look a little like a pair of pants. Circular assemblages of colors extend beyond the borders of this gaily decorated composition. The zigzag shape of “A REAL BLACK MAN” is reminiscent of a puzzle piece, while bright reds and yellows in “IT’S ABOUT JAZZ” seem to fit the title. The most figurative of Bates’s monotypes is “TABLE MOUNTAIN” (South Africa), a blue-based vertical rectangle with a thick band of glittery yellows snaking up the work. Viewers will find Bates’s work a compelling statement of life in art. She also has work in Louisa Gould Gallery’s “Vignettes” abstract show.

A Featherstone Center for the Arts committee selects from artists who have submitted a portfolio for the Film Center exhibits. The 13 artists picked are exhibited at random times throughout the year for periods of three weeks.