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