Jo Whaley has lifelong roots in the San Francisco Bay Area, having earned advanced degrees in Art and Photography from the University of California, Berkeley by 1980. Whaley originally studied to become a painter and later took a day job as a scenic artist for the San Francisco Opera and other Bay Area theatrical companies. Her theater experience openly informs her photography, in which she creates stage sets and employs numerous props, painted backdrops and dramatic lighting. All of her photographic series fuse the language of photography with the language of painting and rely on an expressive use of color.
Widely exhibited, her work is held in the permanent collections of many museums, including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the San Francisco Museum of Art. Her touring exhibit “The Theater of Insects” opened at the National Academy of Sciences, Washington, DC in the Fall of 2008, followed by the Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego. It has continually toured to museums and most recently, the exhibit was at The Henry Fox Talbot Museum, Lacock Abbey, UK. A monograph, “The Theater of Insects” was published by Chronicle Books in conjunction with the exhibition. Whaley received one of the last National Endowment Visual Artists Fellowships in 1994 for her “Natura Morta” series. She received numerous grants to work with the Polaroid 20×24 camera in New York between 1989 and 1993 for her series of nudes, entitled “Global Folly.” She keeps studios in Santa Fe, NM and Berkeley, CA where she continues to produce exciting new imagery.