While the world at large continues its sluggish, incremental awakening to the embodied artistic brilliance of black women, it would be easy to say that JoAnn McNeil has quietly birthed a collection of living sound and sight fully immersed in the lived-in dystopia that many black women experience on this very same world. The noise of it all (and, yes, in fact “noise” as evidenced by pieces like “Invisa Cell” with its Suzanne Cianni-esque dirge or the ambiance of “Blind Eye” and its Top 40 dance hit in a post Weyland-Yutani world) suggests that nothing from this oeuvre could materialize quietly. Yet, here we are, finally witnessing an artist gently exploding (if you will) from the strange environs of her birthplace of St. Louis (as documented in the photography series “Broken Homes”) and onto stages, galleries, and afro-futurist festivals from St. Louis to Philadelphia.
Though it must be said: JoAnn McNeil is not a noise musician or sonic landscaper, but a being kemetically tethered to this world, speaking in vibrations and alien choral hums. JoAnn McNeil's photography and design are not washed out moments of contemplative exhibitionism, they're active sigil work fused together from a shattered kaleidoscope and pixelated cels mimeographed from Octavia Butler's lost visions. While McNeil's love of creating cut-n-paste soundtracks from glitches that have returned from space with modular synths and various apps remains, it is in the synthesis of the visual, the kinetic, and the spiritual that empowers her work. In the presence of such visionary work as the “Ghost Sheets” series where physiological representations of depression and internal conflicts are navigated through stark, digitally manipulated photographs, it becomes clear: JoAnn McNeil is not a multi-disciplinary artist, she's a self-contained, time displaced spirit vessel with dials set to liberation. - Alex Smith