Jo Mann: An Art All Her Own

When it comes to seeing artistic possibilities in the ordinary, Jo Mann is unparalleled.

Mann’s artwork is in fact unique and is a style completely her own. She acknowledges. Her canvas is not stretched fabric but the most Canadian of objects.

Ironically, while deeply Canadian she found inspiration through travels and through connections with others. Mann’s experience with a surrounding community of artists and her many friends that are artists has been positive, both for herself and the nature of her work.

She has voyaged all over North and Central America, with a working stint in a Mexican tourist resort town.

And then she also has found meeting and connecting with other artists to be motivating. “You work together and then you develop your own style,” she explains.

Seven years abroad have had an undeniable influence on her artwork and have even spurred Mann on to new endeavours. She spent some time on Vancouver Island but when she came back to Ontario she didn’t have any canvases to paint on. She came across some canoe paddles in her garage and sanded them down and began using them as her canvas.

jomann1Mann has now been painting paddles for over 30 years. “I like working with lost and found objects, making something interesting out of them and revising them,” she explains.

The paddles are some of her most popular pieces and are known around the world. She admits, “the hardest part about the paddles is keeping them one of a kind, keeping them unique.” However, it is because of her care and attention to detail that the paddles can remain that way, “never the same,” as Mann describes them.

Mann’s creativity flows in part from the “ongoing process of renewing creative memories from cultures past and present”. That includes the history of First Nations. She captures it beautifully.

jomann3In fact, in the summer of 2012, Mann was commissioned to paint a teepee at Grail Springs Retreat Centre in Bancroft, Ontario. This was a new challenge for her.

The commission was a combination of planning and Mann’s own creativity. Mann and the owner of Grail Springs had several talks about the design of the teepee and what they wanted it to look like “and then she let me go with it,” explains Mann.

Not a typical canvas, Mann had to figure out how to work with the different parts of the teepee in a manageable way.

“It was quite a job,” Mann explains. She began by laying out the pieces of canvas on the ground and applying a faux finish to them. She then applied her designs onto the canvas and began painting.

Mann’s biggest challenge was being at the mercy of the weather. While painting the teepee, she experienced everything from scorching heat to pouring rain. Nonetheless, she persevered and the finished product, Thunderwolf Ceremonial Teepee, now stands tall at Grail Springs.

Mann’s creativity spills over into all of her work. Influences of one piece can also been seen in other pieces, yet all while she keeps each piece one of a kind.