oil and acrylic paintings art gallery with originals, limited editions and prints

Jo Ellyn Rackleff


 Bio, Exhibitions, Press Releases

About the Artist:
Jo Ellyn Rackleff, a native of Birmingham, Alabama, worked as literary producer for National Public Radio in Washington D.C. and New York City. She now lives and works in North Florida.
One Person Shows:
1987 Foxley Leach Gallery, Washington D.C.
1997 621 Gallery, Railroad Square, Tallahassee, Florida
2001-Pelican Place Gallery, Tallahassee, Florida
Other Exhibitions:
2003-Lemoyne Art Gallery, Tallahassee Florida
2002-Pelican Place Gallery Oct-Nov ”Two Women”
1999-621 Gallery, Railroad Square, Tallahassee, Florida
1998-Permanent Collection Show LeMoyne Art Foundation Gallery
1994, Southern Women, LeMoyne Art Foundation, City Hall, and Florida State University's Augustus B. Turnbull III Conference Center, Tallahassee, Florida,
1992-LeMoyne Art Foundation
1991-The Armegeddon Show, 621 Gallery. Railroad Square
1990-The Capitol Gallery, Tallahassee, Florida Six Florida Artists
1989-The Opera House, Monticello, Florida



From The Washington Post
By Pamela Kessler, Washington Post Staff Writer

Jo Ellyn Rackleff is a painter of women—misty and mystifying angels and domestics, forlorn brides and virginal girls. A sorcerer with paint she cooks up a witches’ brew of loosely limned portraits, borrowing colors from butterfly wings and probably throwing in eye of newt and tongue of dog. She’s not afraid of color—sweeping and swirling cobalt, crimson and vermilion—but she never mixes in too much.

As can be seen in her show at the Foxley/Leach Gallery, she has a remarkable vision, especially so since she has been painting for only four years. Rackleff was a National Public Radio producer in who took up painting as a cure for writer'’ block. She now lives and works in the village of Lloyd, Florida near the Georgia Border.

She has gone home, in effect, having grown up in the South. Her heritage is stunningly reflected here in the painting domestic live: a commentary on an experience familiar to Rackleff and one she describes in her artist statement, “Black women mothered me and I depended on them for my life,” she writes. A white child and a black woman can be bonded in love, but they can also be bonded in fear and rage.” It is this very ambiguity that Rackleff captures.
There are tawny girls keeping clean in white dresses with blue satin sashes, and women lounging about in their underwear, letting it all hang out. In much the same way Rackleff confidently allows the underpinnings of her painting to show through—allowing us to see the black lines of the grid she pains on a canvas before intuitively scumbling it with color.

When her ethereal style extends to men, it is to depict inaccessible ones in uniform: the doorman at the Trump Tower whose epaulets fairly spin on his shoulders, and the Priest Gardener-reminiscent of the gardener in Jerzy Kosinski’s “Being There”-pinked faced and sniffing a potted plant. Rackleff cannot draw hands just yet: the priest’s benediction hand is stuck in the corner like a disembodied hello, and yet her vision still enchants. Her painting will be a Foxily/Leach Gallery 3214 O St. NW, through January 15.

Pamela Kessler
December 26, 1987


“The imagination takes the whole of creation apart, according to laws which spring from the very depths of the soul, it gathers and assembles the parts and makes a new world out of them.”
Charles Baudelaire, poet

Four years ago, from the moment that New York painter Harry Shoulberg put a three-inch wide brush in her hand, there has been no turning back for Jo Ellyn Rackleff. What happened next at the Manhattan studio was a remarkable match between artistic intention and talent, yielding bold images alive with color.

For Rackleff, then a writer and accomplished literary producer for National Public Radio, this kind of painting provided something new—an immediacy, a unity (completeness) and a universality of expression not found in the sequential logic of language. With the big brush, she made her way fearlessly across the entire canvas—strokes of vermilion, cobalt, crimson and green raced, turned, scumbled and literally whirled against the white ground; forms appeared only to be obscured by the next gesture until at last the strokes resolved into a figure bringing a kind of stasis to the composition. At first, these figures suggested robust, corpulent women floating, despite their size, just below the surface of watery spectrums. This unique stylistic marriage of color and the figure, apparent since her very earliest works, has remained with Rackleff. Over the years with time and exposure to the medium, Rackleff has expanded her technical range and psychological reach.

The collection of portraits displayed here on the occasion of her first one-person show covey a compelling depth of emotion, a satisfying fullness of form, and a surprising range in palette. These, of course, are not portraits in the conventional sense. They are rather what Rackleff recognizes in the forms as she paints. More often than not they are women—women with children, brides and widows—vessels of experience, memory, ate and most importantly, imagination. Each has a story to tell or, as Rackleff puts it, “Keep working until the figure is real enough to have his or her own story.” In this work where content is inextricably linked to form, the triangle of a woman’s brassiere, a bride’s veil, or of an angel’s wing, invests the painting with emotional as well as compositional possibilities. However, there are not pat solutions. Rackleff brings the peculiar possibilities of each painting to the point of resolution but her conclusions are always open-ended. The viewer enters the work, much as the artist did, with a sense of spiritual quest, a desire to experience the calligraphy of brushstroke and color and to encounter the unknown or hidden self.

Elizabeth Hutton Turner, Ph.D.
Curator of the Exhibition from the Catalogue 1987
Senior Curator, the Phillips Collection
Washington D.C.


Jo Ellyn Rackleff
3219 Thomasville Road 17C
Tallahassee, FL
850-488-0420 day

|| Register || Contact the Artists || Privacy || How to order || Links || Home