Joelle Ford

Notes to You by Joelle Ford

Joelle Ford (American, b. 1943)

Notes to You!, 2008

Graphite, paper, and gesso on canvas

48 x 36 in

In addition to gathering physical objects to integrate into her work, Joelle Ford has also become a curator of words, plucking fragments of language from the world around her to collage into new configurations. Notes to You! presents a monochromatic visual field full to bursting with stenciled text, some of it faded and blurry and some sharply defined. Certain words and phrases feel fairly self-explanatory, such as “Green Desk & Chair,” “Red Door,” and “Main Wall.”  Others, however, seem to tease a backstory that the viewer can only guess at, like “Ask Brad,” “No Return,” and “Oops!” In one instance, the text comprises a question (“Pantry?”), while elsewhere it assumes the form of a rather curious declaration (“I Am Closet”). Ford sourced this assortment of words from notes scrawled on paint can lids, which, she says, she finds interesting and often laugh-out-loud funny. Starting with her own, homegrown supply of lids, Ford then collected more from hazardous waste centers in Lawrence and Topeka — making the final painting a kind of chorus of unknown Kansans, their tossed-out words recovered and playfully transformed into art.


Raised in eastern Texas and western Louisiana, Joelle Smith Ford studied art at two Louisiana colleges in the 1960s before accompanying her husband, Allen, to Arkansas and later Lawrence, where he taught in KU’s School of Business from 1976 to 2019. Following a 38-year gap in which she raised four daughters, Ford earned her BFA with honors from KU in 1999. Harnessing skills honed through decades of sewing clothes, refinishing furniture, and fixing up houses, Ford’s work consists primarily of large- and small-scale found-object assemblages. Ford’s castoff creations have been exhibited in venues throughout the South and Midwest, and her art has received recognition from the Kansas Arts Commission and Kansas City Artists Coalition.

Melinda Narro, MA student in art history at the University of Kansas, April 2019

KU School of Business Art Collection