Today we’d like to introduce you to Joanne Aono.
Joanne, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I was born in Chicago and have lived most of my life there. After receiving a BFA, I have continued creating art and exhibiting at various museums and galleries along with nonprofit and alternative venues, while filling my life with experiencing as much art as possible, observing, and learning along the way.
My husband and I made a life change by moving from our hi-rise Chicago condo to a small organic farm 70 miles outside of the city. This has favorably impacted my art, enriching my exploration of themes addressing similarities and differences, identity, and immigration, as well as exposing me to new observations of nature, animals, and time.
In addition, we run an alternative art project, Cultivator, where we exhibit Chicago area artists in Chicago spaces and on our farm. This allows me to help emerging, established, and underrepresented artists while strengthening the art community.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
As with most artists, time and money seem to be the dominant hindrances. I have always sought self-sufficiency and responsibility, working in high school to save for college and working while getting a double major in college. When I was later accepted to graduate school, I found my financial aid was minimal due to the fact I had made a living wage after college. During my visit to NYC to decide if going into debt would be worth the MFA, I was stalked, later held at gunpoint, then witnessed a murder, all in one weekend! I decided someone was telling me there were alternatives. I used the money I saved to travel to Japan and took some time off to work on my art.
I am frustrated by people who view artists who have other jobs, as not being “full-time artists.” Having to work a job to support oneself can conflict with time in the studio, but it can also provide a sense of humility. Like so many other individuals, I am a full-time artist even if I have a day job, just as a parent is a full-time parent while they are at work. I’ve never made my art guided by what would sell and having another job allows me the creative freedom to make the art my heart and soul desires. The myth that you can only be a serious artist if that is all you do, which actually was popularized only in the past few decades, becomes a misleading narrative largely reserved for those who are financially supported by another individual, unless one is among the small percentage of artists whose art can provide a living wage.
Please tell us about Joanne Aono.
I have been working on several series of drawings in graphite and in silverpoint addressing issues of identity, dualities, immigration, and agriculture. In addition, I’ve been exploring 3-dimensional pieces along with large drawings influenced by the equines we’ve adopted on our farm. In the meantime, I have a few pieces in group exhibitions in the Chicago area. I’m also organizing more art events for Cultivator as well as an exhibition for the Riverside Arts Center Freeark Gallery.
Photo of Joanne Aono by Sherri Denault