artist interview :: corno



Creating and living the artist life in Manhattan’s favorable section of Soho, Joanne Corno energetically captures beauty and elegance on her oversized canvas paintings. With just the right splashes of colors and gentle shadowing, Corno enticingly permeates the faces inside each of her images, choosing different selected elements that are passionately highlighted.  Her artwork has been seen in galleries all over the world, featured in the premiere of Cirque du Soleil’s Alegria, and was projected onto skyscrapers in New York City and Toronto. In celebration of her upcoming show in Dubai, Corno kindly contributed her time to share an interview and mixtape with MIA.


Please share your earliest memory involving or creating art.

My father was a very talented sculptor. When I was a kid, he was buying art magazines from Europe and used to hide them in the attic, because there were nude paintings in them that he didn’t want us to see. I come from a very conservative little town. But as soon as my parents were out of the house, I would run to the attic and spend hours looking at the art. I discovered Toulouse Lautrec, Rembrandt, Renoir, mostly the Impressionists at that time. And that’s when it started for me. I discovered that I was in love with art, especially with painting.

May you share about your academic background concerning art? Did you study art formally? What were your art studies like in general — any influential instructors?

I actually have a baccalaureate in teaching arts and crafts, but I realized very early on that being a painter and teaching other people how to make art are two very distinct worlds. I tried teaching to high school students for two years, but I got fired. At the time, I was 22 years-old, tiny girl with platinum blonde hair, I looked like a punk. I would get in the class and get a round of applause. I was a joke! The kids never took me seriously. I would rather have lunch with them then play ping pong with my fellow teachers. I didn’t have the credibility or the background to guide my students, to properly teach them. I didn’t know what I was talking about.

If you had to explain your work to a stranger, how would you do so?

I like to define myself as an urban expressionist. That is actually the headline of my blog. I always find it hard to describe my work to strangers. You kind of have to see it. I do figurative paintings with bold color mixes. Movement, energy and light are at the core of every single one of my paintings. That’s how you recognize my style.


What are your favorite colors to work with and what aspects do you like most?

As much as I love vibrant, fluorescent colors, I also like to work with yellowish grey, earthy shades – I call them my potato shades. I love working on contrasts. I usually create color mixes with shades that have nothing to do with each other – one that’s completely off, another that’s excessively flashy. I think color is one of my trademarks in my work.

What are your inspirations?

My biggest inspiration is to live New York: the people, the billboards, the urban style of NYC, I can’t find this vibe anywhere else. You’re the first to see everything, it’s right in your face. It’s such a melting pot of culture, and there are so many brilliant people who live here: the best people in the world, the most extraordinary artists, too. That triggers my creativity.

When you’re working, are you fully involved or is your mind already planning ahead? On average, how long does it take you to finish one of your pieces?

One painting brings the next one, but it’s not a conscious process. When I’m painting, I’m really living the moment, and I can be concentrated for hours. That’s actually one of my biggest strengths. Some take two days, some take two months, but the answer is: it took me thirty years of work to get there.

Do you prefer long periods of time alone, or are you energized by interaction?

Long periods of time alone. You need to be alone to create, painting is a private thing. I have lots of friends, but not a lot of people come to my studio.

Do you have a favorite way to relax when back home?

Two words: Dirty Martini!!!


What part of your process is the most challenging and do you dislike the most?

To be an artist is a non stop challenge. You can never stop the fucking clock. Sometimes, I want to turn the switch off and say: I don’t want to be that person for 2 months. But when you’re an artist, you always want to create something new for the world to see. You’re born with a karma that is so strong. Sometimes you want to be married with two kids, a dog and a swimming pool. Usually, that wish does not last for more than 10 minutes. Soon enough I find myself back in the studio.

What has been your favorite experience thus far in your career?

Moving in New York… to be able to afford living in Soho. Being here enabled me to travel all around the world, also. I’m all wrapped up in my dream.

What turns you on? What turns you off?

Smart people turn me on; people who evolve, who learn and who can teach me things. Close-minded people turn me off. They are like living dead. People with no juice – no energy are unbearable.

What do you hope people take from seeing your art?

I want to give them energy, it’s like when you watch a movie or you listen to music, you get a strong emotion from it. There is a big range of feelings in my work and the perception is subjective: it can be anger, sadness, happiness, fear, grief, love.


If you could meet with one visual artist, living or dead, who would it be and what would you like to ask them?

Julian Schnabel. I’d like to know what he thinks about life after death. I’d share with him the spirituality of being a painter. It’s such an intense thing. I want to know if he perceives it the same way that I do. If he gets in that zone.

On Music Is Art, our mission is to show how music and art are truly connected. Which albums do you credit as having the biggest influences as far as your art and life are concerned?

I can’t paint without my headphones. What I listen to sure does influence the way that I work. I listen to so much music, and I am inspired every week by something different… it’s hard to put only one thing forward. If you want me to choose three I’ll give you five, in no particular order: Outrospective by Faithless, Ready to Die by Notorious BIG, Pornography by The Cure, Mezzanine by Massive Attack, and Cross by Justice.

What is the basis for your upcoming solo show in Dubai?

It just happens that this show is charged with blondes and has a lot of fluorescent colors. It’s extravagant in that sense. I don’t think I created these pieces specifically for the show for Dubai. They could have gone anywhere else. I don’t create a show for a city; I work where I’m at now. And I really can’t tell what’s coming up next.

Aside from your new exhibit, what other exciting projects do you have coming up?

I’m working on a book that documents my story – moving to New York, all the crazy shit that happened. I have a lot of young admirers in Canada and I feel that now, I have something to teach, I have a story to tell. That’s why I write the blog, I feel the need to broadcast more stuff where the people are at, i.e. online. It’s part of my artistic development.


What are your favorite words to live by?

Either you sink or you swim! (laughs)

Please create a mix tape within a theme of your choice.


In for the Kill – La Roux

Easy Love – MSTRKRFT

Paris (Aeroplane Remix) – Friendly Fires

Love Lockdown – Kanye West

She Wants to Move – N*E*R*D

Electric Feel (Justice Remix) – MGMT

Ooh Ooh Baby – Britney Spears



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4 Responses

  1. Deiter

    It amazes me that a young (even white) woman would choose to create such imagery. (How does a young painter afford to live in Soho, anyway?) Her work seems to plug into all of the worst Vogue-issued beauty standards. (Maybe this explains why the sheiks of Dubai are all over it.) She scruffs her images up a little but no matter, the pouty collagened lips, the blonde tresses, the heavily made-up eyes, the cheek bones, they all remain. In the context of her work the scruff comes off more as just graphic conceit. This is essentially editorial illustration, and while there’s nothing wrong with that, as painting it’s more suited to beauty salon decor: A low-tech, poor man’s expressionist version of Patrick Nagel.

    I applaud her work ethic and her dedication, but conceptually, her work is vapid. (Surprising that her art teachers didn’t tell her this already. Or maybe she skipped academia. I’d guess she did.)

    That’s my take.

  2. The Curateur

    LOVE this find! Great spotlight and definitely making note for that time when I can actually afford art. Or have the walls to hang it come to think of it…