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Jo Weiss, American Artist, born 1955

Painter, Jo Weiss’ visual language is made with reductive marks which create a kind of universal communication.

Jo Weiss, Artist, Portrait, artline
Jo Weiss
Jo Weiss, Artist, After Delacroix: Fall of Constantinople, artline
Jo Weiss
After Delacroix: Fall of Constantinople, 2011
oil on canvas
48 x 54"
Jo Weiss, Artist, Deposition IV, artline
Jo Weiss
Deposition IV, 2015
mixed media on board
36 x 23"
Jo Weiss, Artist, Dawn Silhouette, artline
Jo Weiss
Dawn Silhouette, 2012
oil on linen
48 x 50"
Jo Weiss, Artist, Demoiselle Dawn, artline
Jo Weiss
Demoiselle Dawn, 2010
oil on canvas
50 x 56"
Jo Weiss, Artist, Cassandra, artline
Jo Weiss
Cassandra, 2011
oil on canvas
48 x 38"
Jo Weiss, Artist, Post Harvest, artline
Jo Weiss
Post Harvest, 2010
oil on canvas
48 x 72"
Jo Weiss, Artist, Arizona Run, artline
Jo Weiss
Arizona Run, 2009
oil on canvas
36 x 60"

Artist Statement

Gesture. The communication of imminent action. Physical, spatial and material.

The idea of gesture, of compelling movement and content, has always been an element in my work, whether the suggestion of the play of forces between gravity and resistance or positive form and negative space, and how these ideas can be realized in paint.

Lately, I’ve begun to paint translations of various Deposition compositions. Beginning with a Titian, I found myself reducing the visual aspects to the isolation of the hands. The cross cultural ability of pathos to be communicated through the action of the hands became the focus. One doesn't need the entire story to glean the contextual. Even if the story is absent, the essence of expression conveys.

Several paintings of Depositions from various artists followed exploring this concept of reduction, hand "talk," and material gesture. Most take place within a shallow, ambiguous plane. Deeper space concerns are beginning to hold my interest while moving away from specific translations into a broader host of sources, including invention.

- Jo Weiss



I grew up in a family immersed in art. Taken through museums around the world, I reveled in the possibilities each work opened to me, from the profound to the quotidian. While these experiences were frequent, I never really considered devoting my life to the making of images as I was often alone and had few people to explore ideas with. As a result, it came as something of a eureka moment to realize that I could, in fact, build on the reservoir of images and motifs gathered through the years.

Pursuing my education with an emphasis on the figure, I have moved from direct perception to invention. I liken the physicality of painting to the choreography of stage or ballet as I exploit what I can from the figure’s gesture into something redolent of impending action. The very material of paint and the demands of composition provide me with the vehicle with which to explore these ideas.


born 1955, San Francisco, CA

1986 MFA The American University, Washington DC
1984 BFA The American University, Washington DC


The Washington Post - May 2012

Sacrificing creatures for humans' comfort
by Mark Jenkins

Demoiselle Dawn, 2010, oil on canvas

Jo Weiss

Local painter Jo Weiss is hardly the first artist toliken dancers to birds. But where "Swan Lake" combines avian and human, Weiss’s "Gestures" divides the two - and seems more compelled by wings than limbs. Her exhibition at Washington Studio School includes a few pictures of bending womanly forms and more than a dozen of cranes at sanctuaries in India and Wisconsin. Their gestures are fluid and elegant as the paintings that capture them Most of these are oil, but Weiss also uses acrylic, ink, crayon and more, working on linen canvas and occasionally, paper. The variety of media is matched by the range of styles – from impressionist to expressionist, and sometimes in the same picture. The striking "Demoiselle Dawn," for example, conjures flight with sideways strokes, while vertical paint drips add to the overall feeling of movement. "Flight," in pencil and gouache on paper, is a study in black and luminous grays that suggest Asian scroll paintings. Others are more realistic, but all are linked by the themes and visual poise.

JO WEISS: Exploring Form and Movement
by Amanda Lineweber May, 2012

Demoiselle Dawn, 2010, oil on canvas

Even a cursory glance at art history will show that across both time and geography artists have been gripped by the diverse imagery of the crane. Artists in ancient Asian and Arabic nations, Greece, Native American and Inuit cultures, and more all included this graceful bird in their work, as well as their mythologies.

Jo Weiss, an artist based in Georgetown, would be happy to tell you all these facts and more, for cranes have inspired her as well. She has filled the main-floor gallery of the Washington Studio School with paintings exploring the form, movement, and landscapes of the crane. Though the paintings are all recognizable as Weiss’ style, each of these explorations produced vastly different artworks.

Several of the pieces function as portraits of a sort, realistically depicting one or two birds. Also, Weiss has included in the exhibit studies of female figures as they bend forward. These were painted in order to explore relationships of physical form and are highly related to her crane portraits.

Weiss found her inspiration for this body of work during several trips to crane sanctuaries in Wisconsin and in India. During these visits she made several study drawings and took photographs to serve as reference points for the paintings she created later in her studio. The fact that Weiss spent so much time observing cranes is especially evident in her many paintings of cranes in flight which depict a sense of movement that can only be understood in person. Especially lyrical and graceful, these works capture the beauty of the birds’ movement. Vertical Rise, hidden at the top of the staircase, and Golden Crane (Double Lift) are particularly lovely, but Weiss’ large graphite and gouache on pencil, Flight, is the most successful in capturing a crane’s very moment of takeoff. Throughout this series, Weiss uses realism, lyricism, and once even a blocky near-abstraction to depict the birds as they fly.

When the artist and I discussed her body of work she explained that she became interested in the cranes because of their similarity to the human form. For Weiss, the cranes became a new, more original medium through which she could continue to explore ideas of movement and posture. Yet now, she has gravitated towards the human form again. Weiss doesn’t think the cranes will leave her mental imagery, but their future in her artworks is unsure.

One of the most recent works in the show is a partially-abstracted painting of Jodhpur, the blue city of India. Since Weiss has been interested recently in the compression of forms the compact city was an ideal subject. If this piece is at all telling, the next works out of Weiss’ studio will be engrossing and stirring, new manifestations of her sustained interest in the relationships she finds between movement and form in all things.


Lee Fleming, "Galleries – Jo Weiss Le at Courtyard." The Washington Post (September 11, 1993) , p. D2

J. W. Mahoney, "Empowering Monotype." New Art Examiner (November 1992); p. 28

Janet Wilson, "Empowering Monotype." The Washington Post (May 23, 1992)

"Works in Miniature." The Wisconsin State Journal (August 28, 1989); p. D2


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