On Location with Painter David Foox at Saks

Artist David Foox talks about the symbolism behind his paintings and his inspiration during a painting performance in Saks Fifth Avenue.

As part of Women’s Contemporary Week, artist David Foox has been painting a mural live on the fifth floor of Saks Fifth Avenue. From March 29 to April 1, shoppers got an exciting chance to watch Foox in action. I was lucky enough to catch up with him while he was painting and ask him some questions about his work.

Getting off the escalator and turning the corner in the women’s contemporary department, I came upon a lively scene. In a small space surrounded by mannequins and racks of clothes, Foox had set up a mini studio with a drop cloth covering a patch of floor, tubes of vibrantly colored paint both on top of and underneath a small table, and brushes of different sizes poking out of a large glass jar filled with water. Foox himself was seated on a tall chair in front of his painting, which was already well under way and bursting with bright colors.

It’s hard to describe the impression the enigmatic Foox made on me, but as I first approached him with photographer Chuck Lau, I had the uncanny feeling that he knew exactly who I was before I had even gotten close enough to introduce myself. He did, in fact, say that he thought he recognized me from somewhere, as if we had met before in a past life. Normally I don’t consider myself a very spiritual person, but there was something about his energy that had me absolutely convinced. Foox said he would be happy to answer my questions, and continued painting as he did. The work in progress popped with color and light. With a small brush, Foox layered blue paint onto the figure in the center.

I asked first of all how he got the opportunity to do this live painting. Foox told me that Saks’ marketing team reached out to him, adding, “they’ve never had live painting in the store before. It’s unprecedented– a first.” Several of Foox’s friends had come to watch his progress and he introduced me to them as they wandered onto the scene. I asked him what the reactions have been like. “There have been a variety of reactions,” he replied. “Some guy compared me to David Hockney. An old woman asked me if the figures represent the Trinity. They do represent the Trinity– the Trinity of Man: mind, body and soul.” I asked him which figure was which. He pointed to the two smaller figures, saying that they represent the mind and body. The large figure in the center represents the soul. He continued, “The mind and body are synonymous with each other because they are both couched in the material universe. The soul is connected to the universal mind and entire ONE consciousness, the seat of genius if you will.” I asked him to explain the red symbol hovering over the soul. He told me that symbol is one of the oldest symbols in the world. It’s been found in Sumarian ruins, Babylonian ruins, Egyptian ruins. “It’s the most poetic symbol you can attach to a piece about transcendence,” he added.

I asked Foox if his process for this painting is different from the way he normally paints. “Very different,” he said. “I only have four days to complete a painting that would normally take months. The painting is faster, more wild.” He pointed to the yellow brushstrokes, emphasizing the way they’re very pronounced. I asked him if he’s currently exploring these themes and symbols in his other work. He said,

“As an artist I wonder where inspiration comes from because I’m afraid I’m going to run out. You know, I’m very inspired now, but you never know how long that’s going to last. Any truly great artist would never call himself a great artist because he recognizes that inspiration is fleeting. He should be thankful for this moment of genius. That’s what the Ancient Greeks believed, as the word genius comes from the Greek.”

As he said this, he looked straight into my eyes and I had an unearthly feeling that he was staring deep into my soul. His words resonated with the artist in me and I felt that they’re true not just for painters but for all artists: writers, photographers, dancers, musicians, anyone who aims to create something meaningful.

Just then we were interrupted by a family with two little boys who approached Foox and announced that they were artists too and wanted to paint. Foox bent down to greet the kids on their own level and told them that of course they could add to the mural. He propped the older boy on the chair and gave him a brush with yellow paint. The boy applied long strokes to the canvas and Foox encouraged him before giving a turn to his younger brother. The beaming parents took photos as everyone watched. It was beautiful, the type of moment that inspires children to decide they want to become artists when they grow up. As they were leaving, the older boy told Foox that he was going to draw him when he went home and Foox said, “maybe you can send it to me.”

When they left, Foox told me that he loves the distractions–unlike when he’s working alone in his studio–because each person adds their energy to the painting. He remarked that at first he felt a bit strange being on the women’s floor, but after a while he began to feel at home there. He revealed that in his studio he likes listening to strong feminine vocals like La Roux and Lady Gaga. So perhaps there is something special about women’s energy that Foox can relate to.

I asked Foox what we can expect to see in his upcoming solo show in SoHo. He replied that the paintings in the show will feature Mayan symbols, Greek figures like Persius and Poseidon, and metaphysical creatures that take human forms. He asked my horoscope, and when I told him that I’m a Leo, he said that the lion is an important symbol in his work. Foox is a Libra, and lamented the fact that the Libra symbol doesn’t translate as well in art as signs like Leo, Scorpio, and Taurus. Indeed, Foox featured the lion in a limited edition proof currently on auction at Christie’s.

Check back soon for more information on this talented and inspiring artist. He has a handbag designed exclusively for Stella McCartney on auction at Christie’s until April 11 and a solo show called “The Air is So Thin Between Here & There” opening at the MINY (Made in NY) Gallery (26 Greene Street, SoHo) on April 18. Untapped previously checked out Foox’s uncanny studio high up in an empty Wall Street office.

Addendum: Foox also collaborated on a 2012 summer Tee called “Devourer” using QR code technology. It is available as a women’s tank top and a men’s t-shirt on addmyberry.com/foox

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 David Foox, manhattan, painting, soho

21 Responses
  1. I am very inspired of the depth of Davids Work both visually and contextually, It corrages us to see and look beyond! Very radiant!

  2. Cambria Smith Reply

    Love this! Foox is so very talented! I’m so glad he has the opportunity to introduce more people to his beautiful work of art. Much love and appreciation! Can’t wait to share this with my pals!

  3. Rico Horsley Reply

    Hey David
    Awesome painiting! It also makes me appreciate even more the two David Foox paintings that i have hanging in my home in Auckland, New Zealand.

  4. “As an artist I wonder where inspiration comes from because I’m afraid I’m going to run out. You know, I’m very inspired now, but you never know how long that’s going to last. Any truly great artist would never call himself a great artist because he recognizes that inspiration is fleeting. He should be thankful for this moment of genius. That’s what the Ancient Greeks believed, as the word genius comes from the Greek.”

    For an artist to make that statement in an interview let alone understand the statement he is making not only makes him ‘true’ it makes him wise. It is the essence of creativity, for all artists to follow and to abide by. But then naturally…once you get started, I find one idea leads to another, and in David’s case above certainly so. AS it appears FOOX (as usual) emits super grace under pressure! And letting go of something for others, it seems like what we should all be focused on, not only at this time but all times, at least become more consciously aware of it–the way Foox is.

    His painting is timely. (I think.) In that it was created (in four days amazing and emotionally exhausting I imagine) during one of our most culturally celebrated holidays. Whether Foox thought of this while painting it I wonder, but probably not. I believe he works in time with time and is often I think ahead of his time therefore always moving and not ‘looking back.’ And yet on the same note I consider him future past and present all in one. He’s Great. I don’t think Foox counts on things they simply become things. He had only four days to do this and voila–“We Are Celestial Seed” like it always was ‘here’ adding new Synchronicity to Saks Fifth Avenues’ fifth floor, haha Now Space.

    Also what I love and find inordinately beautiful (and unique) about David’s mural–is not only its reverence but its sound. Or rather attribute of perfect silence and protectiveness aside contrast energy. I suddenly find myself thinking about ‘space’ and what space might sound like. Nonphysical space, of course. It evokes this curiosity. Like if you were to step into David’s painting (as if entering a portal) what kinds of things would you encounter where would you be going and who would u meet? Would anyone save you? It’s totally ambiguous and there are no answers it’s just my question. I decide after staring at it for a long time, most likely we’d encounter all the things we don’t yet know, but mainly ourselves, and that yes self-reflectively we would be saved. This is a truly beautiful achievement David Foox. Your time is art. I am so proud of you.

    Keep your humanity always, for yourself and for others. It is what sings.

  5. Always a pleasure watching Foox work. Hanging out with him at Saks was WAY more fun than it shoulda been… 😉

    Fooxie I’m looking forward to seeing your piece for our Candy Coated Custom Show in April.

  6. T’was a great honor and a pleasure to observe professor le provocateur Foox create a beautiful work of art where there had been nothing before. It’s an incredible feat to leave behind a gorgeous fully realized painting in a pre-specified number of hours, while simultaneously permeating the entire 5th floor of Saks for 4 days with warm, patient, focused energy and intelligence and superfine artistry!

  7. David Foox is an inspiring, energetic, multifaceted artist about whose work I have blogged multiple times. He is as kind and loving as he is talented and I’m so happy his work is finally getting the recognition it deserves!

    Laura Sweet
    If It’s Hip, It’s Here

  8. Had a great time seeing David do his thing live. It’s one thing seeing his finished art, yet another completely seeing the work created from start to finish. And David’s most admirable trait beyond his obvious skill is his accessibility, his engaging, infectious joy and interest in sharing and discussing art, philosophy and life. Too many artists push their fans away; David engages and invites people to enjoy and discuss art — these days, it’s extremely rare for people so good at what they do to be so accessible and inviting. I wonder who had more fun with this project — the people who wandered by his installation as he was working on it, or David himself…

  9. Another brilliant masterpiece. I can feel the energy radiating through my computer monitor as I view it. Cannot wait for his show at MINY later this month and will be swinging by Saks to get the full effect this week!

  10. Foox has been making art for years, he is quite prolific and he has a way of communicating his ideas in a very tangible, beautiful way as well incorporating deeper concepts. It is great to see him get this attention and to have his process be put on display.

  11. Tara Magalski Reply

    Foox was amazing and very kind. I had such a blast watching him and getting to know the artist behind his magical work. Simply Fabulous!

  12. Macho man Julio Reply

    Great work Buttnugget!!!..Kinda looks like the one I own!!..Cant wait to see you at your next show ….So I can kiss your forehead and squeeze your @#s!!!!…..OOOOH MY FOOXIE!!!..Just waiting for the OK to have my sex change for us… So we can melt together and live happily ever after !!!!….XOXO!!

  13. Brilliant watching you paint – and interact with the people who passed by. There was such great energy while we were there – loved it. Not to mention – the final piece is really stunning.

  14. David FOOX is an incredible artist with a very refreshing philosophy on life. He also has a big heart, and a rare desire to truly connect with people. To see him in a public project is exciting; that FOOX believes “each person adds their energy to the painting” shares some of FOOX’ unique insight.

    FOOX has also done a great deal of charitable work, through his Organ Donors, the As Within So Without show at the Lyons Wier Gallery, and even the Flammable Heart Exhibition to benefit families affected by complex illness.


  15. How often do you get to observe a genius at work? Sorry I missed this!!! Amazing job as usual Foox!

  16. Saks’ 5th floor coolness factor just went up 1000 notches! Supremely cool work, FOOX! Love that you got the little boys in on the action too! Very cute! And kudos on all of your other fabulous ventures! This is clearly your year!:)

  17. Risk averse lawyer Reply

    The ubiquity of Foox shows up @ Saks where the public can truly appreciate each brush stroke that’s required to make such a statement. Keep up the good work Sir Fooxalot.

  18. luke kingma Reply

    Amazing work as always, Foox! Love that you’re still hanging with the Untapped crew. We’ll all have to get together for a round of talkin’ soon.

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