Jo-Ann Acey: “Swing”

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March 13 - April 14, 2019

Opening reception: Saturday, March 16, 5:00 - 8:00 PM

440 Gallery is pleased to present Swing, a new series of acrylic paintings by abstract artist Jo-Ann Acey. This is the artist’s second solo exhibition with the gallery and features works that have been in development for the past two years. Acey’s works on paper and wood panels have a large-scale presence on the wall, as do several pieces that attract the viewer to explore smaller, intimate spaces. As an ongoing series of paintings, Acey developed Swing out of childhood memories. She recalls being captivated by the dancing and music that her parents were so fond of, and her life at home often revolved around watching her parents jitterbug. The movement, sounds and energy, joyous as it was at the time, became an inspiration for Jo-Ann to examine in her artwork. Freed of nostalgia, Jo-Ann goes on to create spontaneous, pattern-filled surfaces that she fills with sweeping brush strokes and areas of vivid color. The work is a dialogue about the back and forth, adding and subtracting, and layering of decisive marks—similar to how the bold, brassy dance bands from her past summon up a time and a place.

In a nod to a formative study of Chinese brush painting techniques while in art school, Jo-Ann approaches each work without a goal in mind. Working on a flat surface with brush and ink, she begins making marks on the surface with broad, distinctive strokes that sweep along the arc of her hand and arm. Color is introduced gradually and through thickly-applied acrylic paint; she works in and out of the painting to develop palettes that can be muted pastels in some cases, or saturated primaries in others. Most importantly, color dances around vast open white spaces within the composition. Says Acey, “Working in a series, often two or three paintings at a time, allows me to access the progression of each piece. Each one in the series makes the other stronger.”

Jo-Ann Acey’s studio practice is located at Brooklyn Art Cluster in the eponymous art neighborhood of Gowanus. She is a graduate of Daemen College, Amherst, NY and earned her MFA in painting and drawing from Texas Tech University. Her work has been exhibited throughout the United States and is included in private collections around the globe including Villa Pignano in Voltaire, Italy. As an art educator, Acey has brought the love of visual art to generations of young people, many whom fondly come back to visit her and stand proudly at her side. She designed and implemented art curricula for the Studio in a School Program and the United Nations International School, both in NYC, and continues to consult with various educational programs in the area.

In the Project Space: “Personal Journeys”

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Digital artist Leigh Blanchard has partnered with poet Nathan Dennis to present a series of transformed photographic prints that incorporate mixed-media materials with handwritten text. When Leigh came across a selection of her older, forgotten-about photographs, she asked Nathan to create a narrative for the images and help define their meaning. Blanchard’s personal journey takes on many facets in these pieces, including literal travel, the passage of time, and intimate experiences. While visiting family near Lake Michigan, Leigh and Nathan submerged her photographs in the lake and allowed water and abrasion to alter the surface. Afterwards, markings of ink and attached paper fragments of handwritten words were added. In the process, new dimensions were created in artwork that has now been rediscovered and presented anew.


Nancy Lunsford recently returned from an artist residency in Zhujaijiao, China. The portrait paintings that she is showing in the Project Space are part of her series “Extended Family,” a reflection of observations of China’s dramatic transformation since her last visit in 1984. In total, Nancy painted 50 individual portraits within a few months, in a rapid, impressionistic, style using bright acrylics on canvas. This intimate series is also Lunsford’s homage to the Terra-cotta Army in Xi’an—over 8,000 life-sized sculptures depicting individual warriors as part of a burial tomb in 210 BCE.


Watercolorist Joy Makon’s classic landscapes are inspired by trips to iconic locations in Utah and Nova Scotia. “What I remember most about every breathtaking scene is how the light affects me spiritually. Capturing a time and place is best done through painting the light. Color and composition become almost secondary when I have made light and shadows the important elements in the piece.”