Periodically we will be posting some casual interviews with the artists in the co-op discussing their techniques, styles, interests, and future projects. Feel free to drop us an email or comment if there is a question you would like answered. This week we begin with Scott Foxx….
A native of Savannah, Georgia Scott has been making art for most of his life. He received his MFA in 2014 from Georgia Southern and has taught at GSU as well as UWG in Foundations. Besides his work in painting, he is also a skilled puppeteer, quilter, writer and personal chef to his husband Tim Chapman. His work has been exhibited in Atlanta, Savannah, Valdosta, Nashville and Charlotte and as far away as Sheffield, UK.
Q: Scott, in a nutshell, tell us about your current work.
A: Well, I have explored a lot of different techniques and styles over the years so I have a hard time narrowing my focus on just one thing, but lately I have returned to an interest from my early career which is in folk art. Maybe it’s the move in the last 2 years to this region. I love the boldness and simplicity of what is called ‘Outsider’ art generally, meaning people who have not been through formal training. There’s an authenticity to that work and it feels more grounded and familiar as an inspiration than some European masters I cannot relate to. I am trying to synthesize the forms and methods of traditional folk art ( such as obsessive patterns, ‘found’ surfaces, crude line work, dream like imagery) with my contemporary understanding of content.
Q: What sort of content?
A: Sometimes a cigar is just that- a cigar. But sometimes there are symbols, personal anecdotes, political ideas, or folk tales reconsidered from a modern perspective. I did whole series years ago based on Brer Rabbit but it got really complicated and I wasn’t so interested in having to talk about race all the time. Lately I have been stuck on botanicals.
Q: Like plants?
A: Yeah. I suffer from horrible allergies and although its really beautiful outside right now, I have a love hate relationship with nature, so I don’t spend a lot of time out in it. I am a big fan of windows and air conditioning. It started with the local Guild’s Spring show which had a ‘Blossom into Spring’ theme which sort of demanded plant life. I ended up making a painting with a man in seersucker, in a surreal garden, playing a patch-worked piano, with a cat. I just sort of let myself go on that one and I like the results. Then I did a dandelion that has needle like flower petals exploding from a curling, baroque stem; it’s somewhat threatening and I like that. The sense of nature as an adversary, as dangerous.
Q: What about your techniques and media?
A: I work mostly on wood panels that I make up myself, or sometimes paper. I like square formats but I’m not sure why, it might have something to do with the grid. I hate the ‘bounce’ of canvas but sometimes I use it if I can make the surface firm enough; in the end I will paint on whatever is at hand, including older works that no longer interest me. I also cut and scrape into the surface, layer with paper and paint, and do a lot of sanding to get a rich, aged texture to begin upon. The blank, plain, pristine surface of wood is too beautiful so I have to mess it up first in order to get what I want out of it. Sometimes shapes emerge from that layering and sanding process and this allows me something to respond to. I use all sorts of drawing media throughout, like pastels, graphite, Prismacolor and ink. My work is a nightmare for future conservators, if that’s ever an issue. I don’t really care about archival properties, but what I use is water based and pretty compatible. I use a heat gun to speed up drying because I am impatient. That’s why I could never use oils, I can’t wait for the paint to dry. But lately collage has been more important and especially when it is with small pieces that accumulate on the surface to form a dense, patterned effect. It slows me down and I enjoy the delicate hand work I have to do. It reminds me of the slow process of hand quilting which is like a meditation.
Q: Do you listen to music while you work or do you prefer silence?
A: I need some sound, either music or a movie, that doesn’t distract me too much. I have a collection of DVD’s that I’ve watched a thousand times, but they set a certain tone, and allow me to focus. I listen to everything from bluegrass to techno to movie soundtracks, Japanese traditional, classical and opera and broadway show tunes. It’s a pretty schizophrenic playlist.
Q: What is your work day like? Where is your studio?
A: I have the leisure at the moment to get up when I like, but it’s never beyond 8, I am a creature of habit. After the usual morning routine, seeing Tim off to work, I tidy up the house a bit, do any business like email or social media, and then go upstairs to my studio. It’s a bonus room with a bathroom that serves as my studio, an extra guest room if needed, and the cat room. Studio space is so expensive and hard to find anymore and whereas I like having an off site space (it feels more like ‘work’ when you have to go somewhere else every day) there just aren’t a lot of available places and what there is, is expensive. A space the size of my upper room would be at least $400 to $500 a month. It’s a mess at the moment, but I clean up between pieces. It’s carpeted which I don’t prefer, but I have drop cloths and tarps to spare what mess I can and I’m not flinging the paint everywhere anyway. I build my panels in the garage, and that’s also where I do my sanding and varnishing. I work on whatever is on the easel for the next several hours, until about 5 or so when I have to start thinking about making dinner, feeding the cats, and spending time with Tim. I have my lap quilting to do in the evening as well. This is the ideal of course, as other projects like puppetry, prop/costume for a show at the Arts Center, workshops, or classes at the college get in the way sometimes.
Q: Who is your most significant artistic influence?
A: Probably Picasso. He was so ambitious and delved into so many styles and subjects. I love how he could take a mundane thing, like a bull, and through repeated renderings really take it apart and reform it endlessly. He worked in all media, which I strive to do as well- I think a proper artist should be able to command all sorts of 2d and 3d processes, not just one. Picasso was probably the most successful at integrating the Art Brut mentality into his work, along with Dubuffet and Miro, who also studied children’s art and the work of the insane. I also look at Serafine de Senlis, Bill Traylor, Mose T, and the Gee’s Bend Quilters.
Thanks for your time!