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About Jo

Jo Brown's picture
The Gray Zone Jo Brown A painter of seascapes, I require a broad palette of grays for my work. Grays are everywhere. Clouds, often imagined as white, seldom call for white alone, but instead a spectrum of grays, blues, ivories, yellows, browns and pinks, at times even the darkest of near-black. The new painter achieves gray by mixing, of course, black and white. Such a binary gray color may work for rendering cold steel, concrete, aluminum, or other manufactured surfaces, but such a simplistic gray... more

Signs

A multi-year photographic project by Baltimore artist Jo Brown. The project plays with ideas
of intention, time, and meaning, and is inspired by Italo Calvino, "A Sign in Space" in his
collection of ancient-modern fables, Cosmicomics. I am intrigued by the lack of control that
any artist has over the received meaning of the work. We invest meaning into things that was
not intended, and we fail to see meaning that was. By focusing on this kind of uncertainty,
I hope to foster my ability to understand what is meant (and what is not) by others, and to
allow that my meanings will always be both more, and less, than I intend.

. . .

The Land of Why

"Sometime recently, without much fanfare, Ezra crossed over into the land of "Why?"
He's increasingly familiar with the territory."
D.L., Sunday, May 11, 2014 Mothers' Day

So here you are:
a shadow no longer amusement
but a reason to look
for the thing itself;
a reason no longer
'because'
but a new question
you will ask;
and talk no longer what washes over you
the air you breathe
the comb in your hair
the rough washcloth on your unwilling face
but what you will make and move and seek and find

-- Jo Brown ©2014

  • Jo Brown, G.O.P. (©2012)

    A vernacular folk-art fiberglass sculpture of an elephant on a circus podium in the fog is a monument to folly. Digital color photograph by American abstract realist Jo Brown, composition in gray, white and red, taken at Natural Bridge, Virginia, 2012.
  • Jo Brown, Trust (©2008)

    A decaying billboard, depicting a man's peaceful face and the vestiges of the word "trust," still speaks deeply to me about the tender situation that we find ourselves in. The original image is a touching portrait of a man, somewhat unusual in commercial art for his pensive expression. I took this photo on my way back from a trip through the deep South, during the primary election season of 2008 when I worked on the Obama campaign.The love for the young candidate in the places I worked drew directly on the felt losses of Martin Luther King, JFK, and FDR.
  • Jo Brown, Escape (©2012)

    A fire escape on an industrial building. Someone cared enough to add the gaily painted decorative awnings to this bleak structure, and they have weathered into a beautiful sculpture. Clarksdale, MS has seen prosperity, but for many it is a place from which to escape. Now it is a place where celebrities go to escape their celebrity. Digital color photograph by American abstract realist Jo Brown, composition in pink, yellow, and gray, Clarksdale, Mississipp, 2012.
  • Jo Brown, Cone (©2013)

    The rooftop of an ice-cream stand in a derelict resort town in devastated coal country. The vernacular sculpture mimics more stately minarets and spires, like a monument to leisure and plenitude. American optimism can be beautiful; it can be both childlike, and childish. Digital color photograph by American abstract realist Jo Brown, composition in red, white, and blue, Mount Pocono, Pennsylvania (2013)
  • Jo Brown, Tickets (©2012)

    The facade of a closed theater and ticket office in Clarksdale, MS, 2012. There is something devastatingly sad about this closed venue, in a town that was, and is, the font of blues music. Beauty compels us to protect it. Digital color photograph Jo Brown, composition in yellow, red and white.
  • Jo Brown, Sky (©2012) digital color photgraph

    The blue painted wall seems to dissolve into thin air, and our eye wants the brick to be the sky. Our frail ways of honoring natural beauty are so poignant to me, that even failed attempts are beautiful, and become more beautiful as the elements age them into oblivion. Digital color photograph by American abstract realist Jo Brown, of blue brick Delta Lumber warehouse façade in Clarksdale, Mississippi, with blank windows and door. Taken in 2012; edited 2015.
  • Jo Brown, Greenroom (©2013) digital color photograph

    This crumpled image of the late David "Honeyboy" Edwards (1915-2011) watched over the greenroom of the Briggs Farm Blues Festival where musicians gather before and after their performances, 2013. Beauty compels us to reproduce it. Digital color photograph by American abstract realist Jo Brown, composition in brown, black, blue and lavender.
  • Jo Brown, White (©2014) digital color photograph

    The yellow-brick front of a small storefront in Clarksdale, MS, with remnants of signage and caution tape. I am interested in how remnants of commercial culture retain vestiges of the not-so-distant social and political past, in this case an ambiguous sign that may or may not have been an overt statement about American apartheid as it was being dismantled, under legal pressure, in the 1950s. Like the sign that remains, this system of separation is neither gone nor forgotten. In Mississippi, it is openly both enforced and protested far more visibly than it is in the north.
  • Jo Brown, Rage (©2012) digital color photograph

    The chemicals sprayed on the cotton crop in Mississippi are so toxic that they ruin the asphalt on the rooves of people's homes. Does this make anyone angry? Digital color photograph by American abstract realist Jo Brown, composition in gray, brown, black and blue, depicting a Clarksdale, Mississippi garage, April 2012, edited 2014.
  • Jo Brown, "Two" (©2015) digital color photograph

    American photographer and painter Jo Brown
    Digital color photograph by American artist Jo Brown (©2015): Two crosses joined in domesticity, in the cold Corn Hill landscape that Edward Hopper painted.

America

America: digital photographs by American abstract realist Jo Brown, 2012-15.

I want to honor the beauty in people and things as they appear, unposed, unrepaired, unselfconscious. All of the people in this series of photographs are listening to the blues. They are making intergenerational commitments to this quintessentially American genre. Because I see this, I am unconvinced by the almost weekly declarations that, as older musicians pass away, "We have lost the last real bluesman." That is not how music, or culture, or beauty work. We are compelled to recognize, honor, and reproduce it. You can see the careful attention being paid by the audience in these portraits. You can see the importance of the music to the parents of the children, the urgency of their attentiveness. This is important. The blues will never die.

. . .

Edge

There was not a cloud in the sky
to threaten rain
when you stopped and tipped
your big purple umbrella forward;

I had just bought chocolates for Easter;
you looked up at the mackerel sky;

and so your smooth face
above your grand parasol
looked like the bunny
with its ears bitten off
only beautiful;

and you,
you looked like the
tightrope walker
walking the edge of the
black, wet asphalt.

-- Jo Brown, ©2009

  • Jo Brown, Listen (©2012) digital color photograph

    Portrait of the artist's dear friend, bluesman Terry Harmonica Bean (right, performing), and musician Lurrie Bell (left, listening). The composition and nuance of color in this image reflects the rigor, emotional range, and exquisite timing of Terry Bean's music. He is a fierce anti-racist, and these colors in their complexity speak to me of that sense of justice. The image at first appears to be black & white, but it is not so simple. Digital color photograph by Baltimore artist Jo Brown, taken at Briggs Farm Blues Festival, Nescopeck, Pennsylvania, 2012.
  • Jo Brown, Cymbal (©2011) digital color photograph

    Two young men in the Rising Star Fife and Drum Band started by Otha (Othar) Turner (c. 1908-2003) and now led by his granddaughter Sharde Thomas. I love the way the cymbal player's full attention awaits his moment, the way the telephone lines mimic a musical score waiting to be written, and the negative spaces among the curves profiles. I love the strength of the young man's neck, and the clear reflection in the metal of his joyful, serious face. Beauty compels us to reproduce it.
  • Jo Brown, Delta (©2012) digital photograph.

    The blue brick Delta Lumber building with overgrown fence and railroad tracks, belonging to the family of bluesman Charlie Musselwhite. I love the way the paint , once bluer than the Mississippi sky, has aged toward that color and is now nearly indistinguishable from it. Our attempts to honor natural beauty are noble ones, even when they are imperfect. Digital color photograph by American abstract realist jo Brown, taken in Clarksdale, MS, 2012; edited 2015.
  • Jo Brown, Blues Sneakers (©2011) digital color photograph

    Still life with blue sneakers drying in the sun framed by metal screening and shadows. Clarksdal, MS has some of the most devastating poverty and violence I have seen in the U.S., and also the fiercest arts community, reflecting a tenacity and a power that is difficult to comprehend. In the midst of it, the blues announce: "We are still standing." I was reminded of the way sneakers in Baltimore are hung over telephone lines to symbolize early death. These declare life. We are still standing.
  • Jo Brown, Mosquito bite (©2012) digital color photograph IMG_8561

    There is astonishing beauty in vulnerability. A young white woman's back, her homemade hat, and flowered sundress, as she stood at attention in a large, boisterous to hear a Mississippi Hill-country bluesman, Terry Harmonica Bean. It was the mosquito bite that got my attention. Digital color photograph by American abstract realist Jo Brown, taken at Briggs Farm, Nescopeck, Pennsylvania July 2012; edited 2015.
  • Jo Brown, Father and child (©2012) IMG_8381

    Digital abstract realist color photograph by American abstract realist Jo Brown. Portrait of father and child in blue, listening to Terry Harmonica Bean and The Cornlickers at the Briggs Farm Blues Festival, Nescopeck, Pennsylvania July 2012, edited 2015.
  • Jo Brown, Listen (©2011), unretouched digital photograph.

    The blues will never die: blues musicians Big George Brock and Ms. Clarine Wagner listening to David "Honeyboy" Edwards (1915-2011) in one of Mr. Edwards' last performances. I was touched by the reverence of these two great musicians for the music of their predecessor. Beauty compels us to honor it. By this, we preserve life even against death. Unretouched digital photograph by Baltimore artist Jo Brown, taken at the Juke Joint Festival, Clarksdale, MS, April 2011.
  • Jo Brown, Music (©2013) unretouched digital photograph

    Portrait of mother in gray and child in blue, listening to Terry Harmonica Bean and The Cornlickers at the Briggs Farm Blues Festival, Nescopek, Pennsylvania July 2012. The visual rhythm of this piece, stemming from the relaxed intimacy of the mother aand child, speaks to me about the blues, that most American of music. Digital color photograph by abstract realist Jo Brown.
  • Jo Brown, Hop (©2012)

    Barbershop window with bullethole, Clarksdale, MS, 2012. I have a similar bullethole in my front window in Baltimore, from before I bought the house. I have kept it there as an inspiration to my work against gun violence. Original color digital photograph by Baltimore artist Jo Brown.
  • Jo Brown, Shark (© 2013) digital photograph

    Jo Brown, Baltimore photographer
    Digital abstract-realist color photograph by American abstract realist Jo Brown (2013). A tattooed young man awaits the arrival of the tall ships in Baltimore Harbor to commemorate the War of 1812.

Accidentals

"Accidentals" are my shorthand for a combination of deliberate constructions and makeshift repairs that change over time with the random efffects of wear and weather, vandalism, and other forms of violence or decomposition. These are "found collages" of three dimensions, photographed into two. The photographs are a testament to the dignity and beauty of skilled work, even in decay, the depredations of time, and the labors of repair, restoration, and preservation. I think of the work of Willie Cole, in his use of an iron's scorch to simultaneously invoke domestic work and the schematic of a slave ship. My recording this damaged and lost skilled manual labor is an effort, a small gesture, toward justice. Influenced by Georges Braque, Mark Rothko, Robert Motherwell, Jean Arp, Walker Evans, Saul Leiter and Willie Cole. The compositions, like much of my work, share an ambiguous play between tactile surface and empty space.

. . .

Beat

I heard you from a block away
to my great relief.
Surely, a good sign, that
the marching band is marching today.
Complete with the blue and orange uniforms
that don’t really fit,
all the more to show
your beauty.

You could not possibly know how I
admire you,
bass drummer,
your practice,
just that you do this thing
in Baltimore
is something of a miracle to me.

So you could not have known, then, could you?
how it stilled my heart to have you
stare in white-hot fury at me,
and crack the drum like a gunshot aimed at
whoever you imagine me to be,
pale woman
squinting on the sidelines
frankly respecting your life,
and longing for a way
to make amends.

-- Jo Brown ©2015
Baltimore

  • Jo Brown, Shot (©2013)

    I do not know whether these are nailholes, or bulletholes. How does it matter; it must. Digital color abstract-realist photograph by Baltimore artist Jo Brown (©2013). Abstract composition in red, jaune brilliant, pink, chrome green, and white. Taken in Clarksdale, MS, 2012; edited 2014.
  • Jo Brown, Point (©2013)

    Right here. Digital color abstract-realist photograph by Baltimore artist Jo Brown (©2013). Abstract composition in ivory, gray, black and teal. Taken in Clarksdale, MS, 2012; edited 2013.
  • Jo Brown, Stain (©2013)

    Nothing in Mississippi is not also about race. Digital color abstract-realist photograph by Baltimore artist Jo Brown (©2013). Abstract compostion in shades of gray, white, and rust. Taken in Clarksdale, MS, 2012; edited 2014.
  • Jo Brown, Block (©2013) digital color photograph

    Digital color photograph by American abstract realist Jo Brown (©2013). Composition in grays, white, and pink, green. Taken in Clarksdale, MS, 2012, edited 2015.
  • Jo Brown, Peace (©2013)

    Digital color abstract-realist photograph by Baltimore artist Jo Brown © 2013. Abstract compostion in whites and grays, taken in Clarksdale, MS in 2012.
  • Jo Brown, Shade (©2013)

    Nothing is black or white, not even black and white. Digital color abstract-realist photograph by Baltimore artist Jo Brown (©2013). Abstract composition in black, white, ivory, taupe and gray. Taken in Clarksdale, MS, 2012.
  • Jo Brown, Work (©2012)

    Work is beautiful, even after it has been undone. Digital color abstract-realist photograph by Baltimore artist Jo Brown (©2012). Abstract composition of grays, whites, brick red and green. Taken in Clarksdale, MS in 2012.
  • Jo Brown, Door (©2011)

    This was once the way in. Digital color abstract-realist photograph by American abstract realist Jo Brown. Abstract composition in Hunter green, aqua, ochre and white. Taken in Philadelphia, PA, 2012; edited 2015.
  • Jo Brown, Opening (©2012)

    Digital color abstract-realist photograph by Baltimore artist Jo Brown (©2012). Abstract composition in Indian red, aqua, pale yellow, white, gray, and light brown. Taken in Clarksdale, Mississippi, edited 2014.
  • Jo Brown, Bar (©2013)

    Digital color abstract-realist photograph by Baltimore artist Jo Brown (©2013). Abstract composition in aqua, brick red, green, and taupe. Taken in Philadelphia, PA in 2012.

Concessions

"Concessions" is a series of digital color photographs focusing on oblique angles by Baltimore abstract realist Jo Brown.

I started work as a sculptor, and this informs all of my painting and photography. The photos in this series play on the forms and ideas that I associate with concessions, compromises, and adjustments.

Stand

And there they are:
a row of rural-delivery mailboxes, standing black and sober, shoulder to shoulder
leaning in a motley row
inside dense thicket by the creek.

So close, with no footing for a dirt road to ride along that bank;
no beaten path to their horseshoe doors, gaping, their red flags dipped,
but the tendrils of honeysuckle and poison ivy,
the umbrellas of mayapples,
the tiny Christmases of club mosses,
the gifts of chipmunks,
bittersweet,
and the flick of a mockingbird's tail.

Did they arrive here shouldered as a prank by some fool boys,
tired of firecrackers and baseball bats?

Did they wash up in a flood, miraculously righted, like drunken sailors,
arms slung around rough necks, careening side to side?

Or are they what remains, the last stand of that family,
the wife, who planted the King Alfred daffodils and the pink azalea
that keep them company still, to the veery's lovely song,
now that the children are grown and gone?

-- Jo Brown, copyright 2013

  • Jo Brown, Concession (©2012) digital color photograph

    A concession tent silhouetted against the sky. What can I say? I thought this light and shadow was both surreal and ordinary, just beautiful. The man's hat marks him as one of the musicians. When a musician is not playing, the music is gone. This can be painful to musicians, so painful that they turn elsewhere for relief. This image speaks to that state of continual loss and longing. Beauty compels us to preserve it. Digital color photograph by American abstract realist Jo Brown, composition in white, gray, and ivory, taken at Briggs Farm, Nescopeck, Pennsylvania, 2012.
  • Jo Brown, Moon (©2012) digital color photograph

    We are able to see the universe in the beauty of small things. This reminds me of Italo Calvino's fable about the moon, in Cosmicomics. Digital color photograph by American abstract realist Jo Brown, composition in black, white, and gray, of a white ship's buoy, 2012. (From a series on celestrial navigation.)
  • Jo Brown, Stop (©2015) digital color photograph

    This ordinary Baltimore streetscpe caught my attention by the way the manhole cover mimics a crescent mood. But the more I look at it the more it also speaks to the imposition of back and white upon shades of gray. The image is an encrypted message, and I haven't cracked the code.
  • Jo Brown, Man (©2012) digital color photograph

    This photograph is a mystery. The image I intended was of an empty storefront. The man's reflection as he entered the building where I stood appeared to me as a mirage, a phantasm, but not entirely unexpected in Clarksdale, MS, where unusual things occur. I have heard instruments playing where they did not appear, and extra voices singing as well. I have taken pictures where fire or halos insert themselves into the scene. The place has an uncanny quality that is captured in the live performances of the ancient music that is the blues.
  • Jo Brown, Tension (©2012) digital color photograph

    Tent rigging and electrical decoration, reminiscent of medical equipment. Backstage at a blues festival, this is what holds things together. I found the admixture of practical and ornamental elements very beautiful; they represent necessary work and the impulse toward beauty. Digital color photograph by American abstract realist Jo Brown, composition in white, green and cadmium orange, taken at Briggs Farm, Nescopeck, Pennsylvania, 2012.
  • Jo Brown, Vegas, (©2012) digital color photograph (2012) IMG_5220

    A forbidding entrance to the blues venue Club Vegas, Clarksdale, MS, 2012. High levels of violence require that even the most modest buildings be fortified; inside the music is beautiful. The lengths to which people will go to protect their art, their music, against the forces of destruction speak to its necessity in our lives. Go to Mississippi and see for yourself. Digital color photograph by American abstract realist Jo Brown, composition in blue, gray and lavender, 2012.
  • Jo Brown, Demo (©2014) digital color photograph

    An old concession stand in an empty off-season beach parking lot, the day before it was demolished. The sand wants to retake the parking lot, and it should. It will, eventually. I enjoy the play of accidental and deliberate lines here, like a contest between natural and manufactured worlds. Digital color photograph by American abstract realist Jo Brown, taken in September 2014, Orleans, Massachusetts, Cape Cod, USA.
  • Jo Brown, Ford (©2012) digital color photograph

    This is a personal memorial to the late bluesman James "T-Model" Ford (b. ca. 1928 - d. 2013). He killed a man in self-defense and did time on a chain gang in Parchman Penal Colony and Farm. When I met him, he showed me the scars on his ankles and said, "1973 is the first time I ever spoke to a white woman. They wouldn't even let us keep white chickens in our yards." This helped me understand the depth an cruel banality of the American apartheid system in Mississippi. Digital photograph by Baltimore artist Jo Brown, of a rusted Ford truck ca. 1940.
  • Jo Brown, Cloud (©2012) digital color photograph

    White is rarely white, but many tones of gray. A white tent below a mushrooming cloud from a nuclear power plant. Soemtimes beauty is appalling, as when it fools you. I thought these were clouds, but they are exhaust. Digital color photograph by Baltimore artist Jo Brown, composition in white, taken at Briggs Farm, Nescopeck, Pennsylvania, 2012.

Message

My still-life paintings are conceived as portraits, and they are part of my search for beauty in everyday life. I have gradually turned from seeking beautiful objects to paint, toward finding the beauty in imperfect, flawed, and discarded things. This approach can provoke powerful emotional responses to the works. Light and attachment, distance and solitude, are the emotional threads that bind these works together. I intend these to be instructive, both for myself and for the viewer, in that they urge the us to seek and value beauty in the ordinary. Beauty repairs the world, and learning to see it in unlikely places helps prepare us for the work of rectifying wrongs and preventing injuries to one another. If we are satisfied with little, and small things bring joy, then there will be enough to go around.

. . .

Enough

Slowly,
she fills full
the plain glass with milk
seated,
she eats.
Touching the crumbs,
she gathers
her life,
and
decides,
enough.

ca. 1969

  • Jo Brown, Sunflower (profile) (©2012) 16 x 12 oil on archival canvas board IMG_5066

    One of a pair of mugshots of sunflowers. With its sister painting, a frontal view of the same flower, it riffs on the ugliness of a mugshot, calling us to find beauty in what is injured. Detail of original still-life oil painting by American abstract realist Jo Brown, depicting a clear glass bottle with a sunflower and its leaves, in profile, against a white ground and dark horizon.
  • Jo Brown, Three (©2012) 12 x 16 oil on archival canvas board, IMG_9595

    Original still life oil painting (2012) by American abstract realist Jo Brown, depicting three clementines on a white platform. Think what you will.
  • Jo Brown, Victory (©2009)

    A small amber glass medicine bottle against a white ground with shadows and reflections and a dark horizon. This painting, one of a series influenced by the mid-century Italian painter Giorgio Morandi, celebrates President Barack Obama's historic election in 2008. Original still life oil painting (2009) on canvas board by American abstract realist Jo Brown.
  • Jo Brown, Balance (©2013) 16 x 20 oil on archival canvas board

    Detail, original 2013 still-life oil painting by American abstract realist Jo Brown, depicting an opened ivory-colored envelope balanced on its corner against a white ground with shadows and dark horizon. Part of an ongoing series.
  • Jo Brown, Whiteness (©2011) 8 x 10 oil on archival canvas board

    A pale aqua glass bottle against a white ground with shadows. The painting is full of color. Original abstract-realist still life painting by Baltimore artist Jo Brown.
  • Jo Brown, Spared (©2012) 8 x 10 oil on archival canvas board

    The pear is a symbol of affection. The title refers to the day the painting was made, when Baltimore learned that it would be spared the devastating Hurricane Sandy. Original fine oil painting by Baltimore artist Jo Brown, depicting a Bosc pear and its attached leaf.
  • Jo Brown, Gratitude (©2011) 8 x 10 oil on canvas board

    An opened aqua envelope against a white ground with shadows and dark horizon is a thank-you note, but for what? 8" x10" oil on archival canvas board, 2011. Original still life oil painting (2011) by American abstract realist Jo Brown, part of an ongoing series, 2010-2016.
  • Jo Brown, Bouquet (©2013) 8 x 10 oil on archival canvas board

    The painting celebrates the birth of a baby girl. 8" x10" oil on archival canvas board, 2013. Original abstract-realist still life painting by Jo Brown depicting a tiny opened white envelope against a white ground with shadows and dark horizon. Part of an ongoing series.
  • Jo Brown, May Day (© 2013) 8 x 10 oil on archival canvas board

    Original still-life oil painting on archival canvas board by abstract realist Jo Brown depicting a small clear glass bottle and dark violas against a white ground and dark horizon. 8" x10" oil on archival canvas board, 2013.
  • Jo Brown, Fallen (©2015) 8 x 10 oil on canvas board

    The apple fell unnoticed in an untended orchard. It deserved better.

Horizon

Horizon: digital color photographs by American abstract realist Jo Brown, 2011-2015. The images in this series have in common luminous color and ambiguous spatial and emotional relations, creating illusions of space and air where there is none, dissolving apparently solid form into nothingness, and calling attention to the accidental beauty of neglected places. Like the open-air paintings, they reveal specific atmospheric conditions of light and air, while pushing the image toward abstraction. This play generates an element of sometimes comic surprise for the viewer, in discovering that things are not what they seem. These riddles are another part of the disciplined learning that is the real work of art.

. . .

Last year

No piping plovers,

not one

not

1.

-- Jo Brown ©2013

. . .

Announcement

Light in slow motion, cry
midst seagrass
scuttled crabs, periwinkles, sea pickles,
fleet fish, cutfoot shells
a whole great
egg of air beneath each wing
you drift down large
silent
disappear still
before
my very
eyes

-- Jo Brown ©2013

  • Jo Brown, Duck Creek (©2014) digital color photograph IMG_9992

    Digital color photograph by American abstract realist Jo Brown, depicting a sailboat belonging to a widower, anchored in still water. Taken in Wellfleet, Massachusetts, September 2014.
  • Jo Brown, Break (©2013) digital color photograph

    Digital photograph by American abstract realist Jo Brown, depicting still water, a high horizon line, and a reflected series of branches in the wetlands at the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Maryland's Chesapeake estuary, the largest estuary in the world. Taken in late fall 2013, at the height of bird migration, the colors are subdued tones of gray, blue and taupe and the composition is highly abstracted.
  • Jo Brown Eclipse (©2013)

    Unretouched digital photograph by American abstract realist Jo Brown, depicting reeds and a lilypad reflected on still water with a reflection of the sun, in an almost black-and-white composition (©2013).
  • Jo Brown, Contrails (©2013) digital color photograph

    Digital photograph by American abstract realist Jo Brown, depicting an abstract composition of sky and sand in aquamarine blue and taupe, low horizon and contrails, separated by a line of ocean. Taken in Wellfleet, Massachusetts, September 2013.
  • Jo Brown, Shot (©2012)

    Digital photograph by American abstract realist Jo Brown of a deconstructed interior wall with a bullethole in Clarksdale, MS. Old red and ochre paint forms a horizon below a gray "sky."
  • Jo Brown, Illusion (©2012) digital color photograph

    Digital photograph by American artist Jo Brown, detail of boarded-up window on blue warehouse, creates the false impression of a landscape below a blue sky.
  • Jo Brown, Ebb (©2013) digital color photograph

    Digital color photograph by American abstract realist Jo Brown, depicting a perfectly balanced abstract composition of sky and sand in cobalt blue and taupe, separated by a sliver of deep teal sea. Taken in Wellfleet, Massachusetts, September 2013.
  • Jo Brown, Delta (©2012) digital color photograph

    Digital Photograph by American artist Jo Brown of a detail of boarded-up window in Clarksdale, MS in 2012. A pale gray "sky" overhangs a plywood horizon, pierced by a glimpse of aqua.
  • Jo Brown, Bank (©2012) digital color photograph

    Digital photograph by American artist Jo Brown, depicting an empty doorway to a bank building in Clarksdale, MS. Shades of gray, ivory, taupe and white form abstract geometries on the stone surfaces.
  • Jo Brown, Waterworks (©2012) digital color photograph

    Digital color photograph by American artist Jo Brown, depicting the Philadelphia Waterworks. A complex composition in a neutral palette creates deceptive relations between positive and negative space in the architectural forms, the walls' patina, and their watery reflections. Taken in 2012; edited 2014.

Lucid

I completed most of this work at the water's edge in and around Wellfleet, Orleans, and Truro, Massachusetts, Cape Cod, USA. These are oil on canvas board, painted en plein air, alla prima, in September and October, 2010-2015. The approach carefully witnesses the specifics of time, place, weather, light, and form, while the compositions deliberately push abstraction. Just as the first painting, "Battlefield" shows an idyllic scene that belies the horro of the conflict there, the other scenes mask hidden violence: of the natural collisions between air, land and water; the life and death of living creatures; the destructive forces of human exploitation of these resources. By knowing their fierce beauty, we may train ourselves in better husbandry.

. . .

Low tide, salt marsh, cold morning

You and yours
of a feather, you

took my breath away in an
early morning

all, each, balanced on one
perfectly still yellow stalk

each mirrored in the still
blue white dips of water, taupe
stripes of sand

so still as if to know
your own weightless beauty
in my eyes,

as close to infinity
as we ever hope to come

2013

  • Jo Brown, Promise SOLD (©2014) 12" x 24" oil on archival canvas board 9.15.14 IMG_0603

    Original 2014 fine oil painting by American abstract realist Jo Brown, depicting dissipating storm clouds over a luminous low tide, Orleans, Massachusetts, USA. 12" x 24" oil on archival canvas board 9.15.14 IMG_0603 Private collection
  • Jo Brown, Truro (©2013) SOLD 8 x 16 oil on archival canvas board copyright Jo Brown 2013 IMG_9208

    Original 2013 fine oil painting by American abstract realist Jo Brown, depicting gathering storm clouds over a luminous high tide at an abandoned beach, Truro, Massachusetts, USA. 12" x 24" oil on archival canvas board 9.15.14 IMG_0603 Private collection
  • Jo Brown, Light (©2014) 20x16 oil on archival canvas board 9.10.14.5 IMG_0608

    Original 2014 fine oil painting by American abstract realist Jo Brown, depicting beautiful fast-moving cumulus clouds casting shadows over water and sea grass with the dunes of Provincetown in the distance. Painted alla prima, en plein air, in Orleans, Massachusetts, Cape Cod, USA at 4pm, mid-tide, 9.10.14. 20" x 16"
  • Jo Brown, Great Island (©2013)

    Original oil painting by American artist Jo Brown, depicting the Herring River at Great Island, Wellfleet, Massachusetts. Painted alla prima in September 2013 on archival canvas board, 12" x 6".
  • Jo Brown, Peace (©2014) 20x16 oil on archival canvas board IMG_0602

    Original 2014 fine oil painting by American abstract realist Jo Brown, depicting a very large cumulus cloud looming over a small vernacular building, Orleans, Massachusetts, Cape Cod, USA, September, 2014. 20" x 16".
  • Jo Brown, Clarity (©2013)

    Original 2013 fine oil painting by Baltimore abstract realist Jo Brown, depicting cliffs at Newcomb Hollow, Wellfleet, Massachusetts, on a cloudless day in early September 2013. Painted alla prima on archival canvas board, 8" x 16"
  • Jo Brown, Flood Tide (©2013)

    Original fine oil painting by Baltimore abstract realist Jo Brown depicting tide encroaching on salt flats and seagrass at Skaket Beach under lavender rain clouds. Oil on archival canvas board, 8" x 16" (2013).
  • Jo Brown, Break (©2014)

    Original 2014 fine oil painting by American abstract realist Jo Brown, depicting advancing cold front and receding cumulus-radiatus clouds against a clear aqua and blue sky, above salt flats and sea grass. Painted alla prima, en plein air, Orleans, Massachusetts, Cape Cod, USA, at high tide, 4pm, September 2014.
  • Jo Brown, "Fog" (©2012) 12 x 16 oil on archival canvas board IMG_9591

    Original 2012 fine oil painting by American abstract realist Jo Brown, depicting fog over the ocean at the dunes of Wellfleet above a deserted beach. Painted alla prima, en plein air, in Wellfleet, Massachusetts, Cape Cod, USA.
  • Jo Brown, Tornado (©2010) 9.16.10.

    Original fine oil painting by Baltimore abstract realist Jo Brown, depicting the remarkable colors of a tornado that swept across New York in September 2010. The painting was completed en plein air, alla prima, in a hurry, 9.16.10, the first of three storm paintings. Artist's private collection.

Fragile

"Fragile" is an ongoing series of waterscape paintings, in oil, documenting and celebrating endangered wetlands, bird sanctuaries, and salt marshes in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, the Cape Cod Bay, and the Cape Cod National Seashore. Refined naturalist observation married to abstract composition reworks the conventions of open-air landscape painting, charging us to see this fragile beauty in a powerful new light, and find a fierce motive for protecting it. It is not "ours" to waste.

. . .

Sunfish

You had no idea that today
would be your last
that perched upon the mast
of your namesake
sails furled the osprey spied
you below
sailing your wet way along
with your schoolmates
under Uncle Tim's Bridge
and back again in and out
of the sea pickles
dodging the green heron

No

you could not have known
that pierced and gasping
you would take flight
unwitting and in your
last gasp at last
would see the sights of
Wellfleet as you
sail by the clock
that keeps ships' time
and over me helpless
watching
from below

-- Jo Brown
©September 2013

  • Jo Brown, Peace (©2014) 10 x 8 oil on archival canvas board 9.10.14.5 IMG_0630

    Soft gray cumulus clouds over a still bay are almost surreal in their calm beauty. Original fine 2014 oil seascape by American abstract realist Jo Brown, painted en plein air, alla prima, 9.10.14, in Orleans, MA, Cape Cod, USA.
  • Jo Brown, Hope (©2014) 20x 16 oil on archival canvas board 9.17.14.3 IMG_0640

    Racing cumulus clouds above a still bay, shifting light over shadowed golden sea grasses and damp sand. Original fine 2014 oil seascape by American abstract realist Jo Brown, painted en plein air, alla prima, 9.17.14, in Orleans, MA, Cape Cod, USA.
  • Jo Brown, Pink Cloud (©2011) 16 x 20 oil on archival canvas board

    Glorious ebb tide at the salt flats in Orleans, Massachusetts, a great pink cloud above wet sand and seagrass. Original fine oil seascape by American abstract realist Jo Brown, painted en plein air, alla prima, September 2011.
  • Jo Brown, House (©2009) 8 x 16 oil on archival canvas board

    The seagrass is nearly obscuring a vernacular building at the water's edge. Humans find this kind of landscape beautiful, whether we are familiar with it or not, perhaps because it contains the elements needed for survival. Original fine oil seascape by American abstract realist Jo Brown, painted alla prima, en plein air, in Orleans, MA, Cape Cod, USA, September, 2009.
  • Jo Brown, Lucid (©2014) 16 x 8 oil on archival canvas board 9.13.14.2 IMG_0622

    A high mackerel sky of altocumulus perlucidus clouds, over a low horizon, reminds me that I am small. Original fine 2014 oil seascape by American abstract realist Jo Brown, depicting Orleans, MA, Cape Cod, USA. Painted en plein air, alla prima, 9.13.14.
  • Jo Brown, Dusk (©2012) 8 x 10 oil on archival canvas board

    An almost invisible line of cadmium orange separating the dark green treeline from the lavender sky creates the depth of atmosphere in this painting. Details matter; pay attention. Original fine oil landscape by American abstract realist Jo Brown, depicting the dusk view from the salt makers's cabin at Duck Creek, Wellfleet, Cape Cod, MA, USA. Quick brush strokes in shades of lavender, Portland gray, sap green, and olive green render the cloudy sunset over still water and a line small cabins amongst the trees. Painted en plein air, alla prima, September 18, 2012.
  • Jo Brown, Breathe (©2014) 10 x 8; oil on archival canvas board 9.13.14.1 IMG_0606

    We punish and injure one another by depriving one another of access to thbeauty of the world. Original fine 2014 oil seascape by American abstract realist Jo Brown, depicting distant clouds in an aqua sky above Cape Cod Bay at very low tide in Orleans, MA, Cape Cod, USA. Painted en plein air, alla prima, 9.13.14, 11:30 a.m.
  • Jo Brown, Fog (©2011) 12 x 16 oil on archival canvas board

    The many colors of gray. Original fine 2011 oil landscape by American abstract realist Jo Brown, depicting the view from the saltmaker's cabin, Duck Creek, Wellfleet in dense early-morning fog. Only vegetation in the foreground is clearly visible. Private collection.
  • Jo Brown, Brilliant (©2014) 8 x 16 oil on archival canvas board 9.14 IMG_0619

    Lavender moment, where the sea is about to change places with the sky. Original fine 2014 oil seascape by American abstract realist Jo Brown, depicting dusk over the Atlantic Ocean at Newcomb Hollow, Wellfleet, MA, Cape Cod, USA. Painted en plein air, alla prima, 9/14.
  • Jo Brown, Battlefield (©2015) 8 x 16 oil on canvas board

    The beauty of this Valley Forge landscape belies the violence that occurred here. Painted en plein air, alla prima, 5/15.

Illumination

I live in a great waterfront city, surrounded by the largest estuary in the world, where many city residents have never seen the bay or the ocean. Increasingly, access to unspoiled places of natural beauty is out of reach. We injure and punish one another by depriving each other of this basic necessity.

Because beauty itself has the power to command our respect and attention, and to compel us to protect it, the celebration of natural beauty in our environment is a too-often neglected language for advancing the causes of environmental and social justice.

The discipline entailed in painting trains us to see, and seeing is a requirement for empathy. If I cannot become what I paint, I cannot get it down. If I cannot see you, I cannot feel your pain, or your joy.

. . .

Forecast

avert your eyes
to what you have already seen
what you have never seen
the lady too tired,
too poor, too heavy of heart
to move
the man too old, too hard, too black
to save
they are washed
they are washed to your shore
they are washed to your door

avert your eyes because
you know they were
here before
write your check
and send it far away
keep them fed and watered
for a day

avert your eyes because you know
they were here before
go back to work
go back to school
tell yourself you have done
what you could

avert your eyes,
order is restored
the tide is turning and
the sea is at your door

August 2005
In memory of the more than 1,000 uncounted children washed away by "Katrina"

  • Jo Brown, Symmetry (©2015) oil on canvas board

    The view from the saltmaker's cabin (built ca. 1820) never fails to astonish me. I have come to recognize that the forces moving the air, and those moving the water, will echo one another with remarkable symmetry. There is little "composing" involved in finding this natural abstraction. Giorgio Morandi observed that there is nothing more abstract than reality. Here it is, again. That symmetry is also a potent feature of justice: the effect of righting a wrong is the restoration of a beautiful symmetry.
  • Jo Brown, Chesapeake (©2011) 8 x 10 oil on archival canvas board IMG_3052

    High cumulus clouds fly over a winter woods and the calm waters of the Chesapeake Bay. The oysters are coming back. Original oil painting by American abstract realist Jo Brown, painted en plein air, alla prima, February 2011 at Rocky Point State Park, Essex, Maryland, USA.
  • Jo Brown, Lit (©2014) 8 x 16 oil on archival canvas board, 9.15.14.3 IMG_0604

    Last night's storm cleared the air, so that I can see into the stratosphere, but another storm is coming. Violet harbinger clouds in a pink and cobalt sky above lit seagrasses and sand on Cape Cod Bay at very low tide. Original fine 2014 oil seascape by American abstract realist Jo Brown, painted en plein air, alla prima, 9.15.14.
  • Jo Brown, Great Island (2013) 12 x 16 oil on archival canvas board 9.1.13 IMG_9598

    Look closely. You will see how the water and the air make the land, and the shadows make the light.9.1.13 Blue Heron Gallery, Wellfleet, MA.
  • Jo Brown, Path (©2014) 10 x 8 oil on archival canvas board 9.13.14.1 IMG_0618

    I imagine this as home, but I am only visiting. Harbinger clouds hustle over a small vernacular outbuilding and a beach path cut through seagrass by the shore. Original 2014 fine oil painting by American abstract realist Jo Brown, painted en plein air, alla prima, 9.13.14.
  • Jo Brown, Ocean (©2010), oil on archival canvas board.

    Beauty compels us to honor and protect it. Original oil painting by Baltimore artist Jo Brown, 10" x 8," (2010), painted aen plein air, alla prima.
  • Jo Brown, Great Island (©2014) 10 x 8 oil on archival canvas board 9.9.14.3 IMG_0616

    Detail: cumulus clouds. We cannot easily value what we cannot see. Here is a clear blue sky with fleeting clouds above a wet beach, Great Island National Seashore lit up in the distance, on Cape Cod Bay at ebb tide in Orleans, Massachusetts, USA. Original fine 2014 oil seascape by American abstract realist Jo Brown, painted en plein air, alla prima, 9.9.14.
  • Jo Brown, Warning (©2011) 16 x 20 oil on archival canvas board 9.16.10.2 IMG_9649

    The beautiful, sickening colors of a tornado that swept across New York in September 2010. My fear is in the brushstrokes. Original fine oil painting by Baltimore abstract realist Jo Brown. The painting, the second of three, was completed en plein air, alla prima, as the storm moved rapidly offshore, 9.16.10.
  • Jo Brown, Salt Flats (©2010) oil on archival canvas board

    Look. Alternating bands of lavender and buff sand and blue water at very low tide on Cape Cod Bay: this is real. Original 2010 oil painting by American abstract realist Jo Brown, 8 x 16, painted en plein air, alla prima, on a cloudless day, September 2010.
  • Jo Brown, Still (©2015) 8 x 10 oil on canvas board

    How do you paint the air? Pay close attention. Original fine 2015 oil seascape by American abstract realist Jo Brown, painted en plein air, alla prima, 9.10.15, in Orleans, MA, Cape Cod, USA.

Rise

The paintings in this project depict the growing impact of sea-level rise on the endangered waterscapes of Cape Cod, Massachusetts and the Chesapeake Bay. Each is completed alla prima, in a single sitting, outdoors, on a single day. These works document a rapidly-disappearing coastline and the beauty that will soon be lost.
Beauty compels us to honor and protect it.

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Jo's Curated Collection

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