Abrasos, Joy Fox
Asian Moment Head, Joy Fox
There will always be a feeling of coming home when I go to the ranch. Perhaps it is Joy Fox’s welcoming spirit; her warmth or it might also be the way she offers her art to others. I met Joy Fox through her late husband Bruce McGrew and she has always treated me as if we have grown old together many times.
Other than the development of new homes across from Rancho Linda Vista the ranch looks the same as it did 40 years ago when I first visited. Joy Fox’s large totem sculptures rise out of the landscape and greet, they are composed of clay and stand as part animal, part human, muse or goddess, representations of spirit in nature. Pictures, words, and pieces of poetry etch the surfaces on many of the forms and they project an ancient and primitive wisdom.
I have owned one of Fox’s totem sculptures for 10 years now and I can see on the folds and wings the hint of conversation between her and the others, the shapes mimic many of the negative shapes in Bruce McGrew’s paintings and seem to drift between dream world and waking realities in their representation. She uses many kinds of clay from many locations, each offering their unique character to the fire and although clay is the oldest medium man has used to express form I am still in awe that taking earth and adding water and fire can produce so much of what we need, even today.
Joy Fox’s studio door was open when I first arrived, as it was each time I returned. She is an open person, very loving and accepting as if all the years of kneading and folding the clay have made her flexible and finely adaptive. The studio was filled with her large and small figures watching her as guardians. In every piece, she reminds us of our earliest human art works, each a continuum of her lifelong conversation with the goddess. She carries the wisdom of the ages and the ancients; every piece holds sacredness even the stray parts of unconstructed totems held the presence of devotion. Joy Fox morphs with life and the work as clay cures. Broken pieces of her sculptures among the flowers and stones tell me she knows the clay will return to the earth eventually, back to the goddess as will she.
The dialogue with Joy Fox.
Diane: I just wondered if art has been at all therapeutic. Have you experienced art as a therapeutic agent?
Joy Fox: Well I think I have. I mean, especially when Bruce died. I mean, if I didn't have my work, I think I would have really been at a loss. That's when I got into yoga much heavier, much more, and you know just working through that, that difficult time.
Diane: Did you find it hard to work after he died?
Joy Fox: Well fortunately we had a group show lined up, I mean the two of us at the Davis Dominguez Gallery. I had tons of work of Bruce's that we put up. I decided I just wanted to go ahead and do that even so soon after his death. I think it was a lifesaver in a lot of ways because, what are you going to do?
Bruce was just wonderful through the whole thing [his dying process]. He just took it so well, it was really awesome. He was very sharp. I think if it wasn't for the work, and because that was so much a part of our life together it got us both through. It was just our main connection. And the yoga, it just helped a lot, helped me get through a lot of that. But the art we shared was the blessing.
Diane: I see so many similarities in your work and his; you really can see your connection. Just the way the images speak to each other. I have that big sculpture of yours. You put scratched images into the clay. I see that the images link to your life with Bruce. I see a sun, there's a sun in one of the sides. It was your piece, “La Mariposa”.
Joy Fox: I remember the piece, yeah.
Diane: I love that sculpture so much. I see the way there was this conversation between your images and his that is very interesting, and very unique.
Joy Fox: Well there were a lot of things that I really learned from him. I wrote a couple of the things down . . .first of all we did a lot of travel, a lot of art pilgrimages. He was always working. He was either painting or teaching, even when we traveled. And his discipline was so incredible. I learned a lot about that, and dedication, from him. We really liked each other's work. We always had conversations going on. We'd visit each other's studios almost every day after we worked and things. I was always saying, "Oh do you like it better this way or do you like this way or should I try this?" You know with sculpture, you can just pick things up in pieces and assemble them. And I’d say, "Do you like this better than this or should this go with this space." And he’d say, "Well ask the artist." He would always end up saying, "Well ask the artist.” And so since he died I would just start having conversation with myself. I started that a long time ago, and now, I mean there's really no one to ask. But there's really not anybody I have in my life who is like Bruce when he would come in, and we'd talk about work.
Diane: I see you include the muse in a lot of your pieces. Those conversations you refer to, is that where the muse comes in?
Joy Fox: I think so. That was something that was real important to him. He did a whole series about the muse. He was always using that as a subject. And I did too. I did a whole series of pieces of the Greek muses.
Who knows where that all comes from, but it comes from our conversations. It's just funny though that moment of knowing when your work is finished; I would just completely overwork things. Like I said, it was harder in the past to have a clear sense of when it was finished. But it got to a point where I have had to have an inner conversation going on. I'm sure I even talk to myself. With these, these were all figures pretty much, so they ended up having a conversation amongst themselves. They do take on a life on their own. For me, when I'm putting a piece together I pick up one part and try . . .this piece for instance, I'm just building it right now but it's going to be an animal kind of figure that's going to have about three different figures. A figure on top of a figure, on an animal. A figure on the top of an animal is sort of the idea. So I thought about three or four different figures, and I don't know which one I'll use until after they're fired. Because sometimes once it's fired, it takes on another life that is very different, it comes alive. It looks pretty dead right now. But then once it's fired different changes happen.
Diane: Oh that's beautiful.
Joy Fox: And that's from the fire. You know that's not from anything I did. I mean, I painted the figure, it’s got a top to it, and head.
Diane: That's interesting though that the fire plays a part in the actual creating.
Joy Fox: Yes, that's the magic.
Diane: You could be finished, but the fire really helps
Joy Fox: It's so different. Look how different they look.
Diane: So this will turn into a different color?
Joy Fox: Well this has some blue on it, this has some color. This doesn't, this has red iron, and the clay is white. It's the same thing this clay is a reddish clay, and this clay is a white clay. So that makes a little difference too. But the iron in the clay that gives it the red. Then the smoke will affect it, and the heat, the fire even gives it kind of a halo. So that's magic. That's like magic entering into the whole. Bruce always talked about magic too. He believed it came from the people that are, the continuum.
Diane: The ancestors I guess. And this looks old as if its been worn and weathered.
Joy Fox: Right. Well I love it when this kind of thing happens when you get these sorts of flashes from the fire.
Diane: As if it’s set, it’s been thrown into the fire after being used.
Joy Fox: And it’s because of its relationship to the other pieces. That happens too because I sometimes use different methods of firing like putting a little burnable piece of something, actually art news magazines are great because they have that shiny ink surface. And if you take a little bit of it, put it in between and you stack them like that, and put something in between here that smokes, that burns out you get different tones, darkened areas on the surface.
Diane: That's how you got that burnt mark on the surface?
Joy Fox: Well that could be, yeah, there was probably something there. But it's always a surprise; you never really know how it's going to come out. That's the magic in the part of it that I really love.
Diane: Now, that one is not fired.
Joy Fox: This is fired once. It’s reddish clay, I built this piece, and then it's going to be up on wheels, I’m using a lot of metal now. I put this pinkish under glaze on it, and then I carved through into the red clay. And now I'm going to fire it again, and put a little clear glaze over it, so that, these marks will come through and then the clear glaze will be shiny, shinier, darker too.
Diane: And then you take the tape off?
Joy Fox: I'll take it off before I fire it. I usually take it off right after I put clear glaze on.
Diane: I guess you want to pull the tape off to get the negative shapes?
Joy Fox: You don't have to, it will burn out. But sometimes the glaze sticks to the tape.
Diane: Well I want you to think about when you're getting ready to begin a piece. You know that moment, almost that moment before conception I guess it is.
Joy Fox: One of the things is, that I usually have more than one piece going on. I was thinking about that because for instance, if you're in a painting studio and you have the wall. I have a friend who's studio is absolutely clear of everything except for a chair, a podium where he has his dictionary, and a piece of black canvas on the wall. He doesn't have any paintings stored in there or anything. That's his studio. That's totally different from mine. I have all these things that give me ideas. For instance, I'm using a lot of metal now. And then I have things that I've started that I haven't finished. So you know when I come in here, there's so much already going on. It's not like I come into an empty place.
Diane: So the art kind of begins from art? It begets more art.
Joy Fox: Yeah, exactly. There are times if I'm working a piece, reworking it, and reworking it, and it's just not making any sense, I have to set it aside. I’ll start on something else, then look over at it and it will tell me what it needs, “Oh yeah, that's what I need to do to that piece.” And I might be working on something totally different, but suddenly know how to finish it.
Diane: Do you ever make a piece, such as a shape like that one, and not really know how you'll ever use it, but it just looks like such an interesting thing?
Joy Fox: Well that's why I have this one. This was going to be another figure. It's going to have kind of a little dress. I'll be working on a piece later, and I'll say, "Oh that figure, that's what this needed." So it's, it is a sort of conversation going on all the time between the pieces.
Diane: There seems to be a timelessness where they're all happening simultaneously like all the work, and pieces are of future works being done now, but they're intended for work next year perhaps. Works that you've taken apart, and reworked. But it's always this ongoing conversation between all of the work that you’ve done from the very beginning of your career on into the future. Even those finished works over there.
Joy Fox: Now those, once I feel they are finished, I want them out of my life or I don't want to work on them anymore. I very seldom go back, and change those.
Diane: They are like beings. They have a presence in the room.
Joy Fox: Yeah, I have finished work over here, and over there it's all pieces and bits.
It's like that conversation going on.
Diane: That's exactly what happens within the painting itself after you kind of lay down the environment with paint, it's like you create a visual culture. But in your case, it has to do with all of these shapes, and the clay, and how the clay is going to contribute to the conversation, how it's going to end up the color that it comes out of the fire.
Joy Fox: And I never know how the color's going to happen. Sometimes it's very boring, and I'm not too happy with it, and I'll re-fire it a couple of times before I get where I like it. Each piece, I want ideally to make sense. I mean, I want it to go together even though it's made out of a lot of pieces. That is kind of complicated. A lot of times, it goes together differently than what I planned. But then as I take each piece and work on it, for instance this piece here that I drew on. When I'm working each small part, I really like it as an individual work of art. You know I like the idea of handling it, and working on it, and carving into it. I'll probably, after this is fired add more glaze.
Diane: So your words that you add, I see lots of words.
Joy Fox: I've been doing that more and more, and more. Poetry and just things that come to mind.
Diane: Are they thoughts that sort of surface in the moment?
Joy Fox: Most of them. For the most part, it's just things that come up or it's bits out of conversations.
Diane: Like this, "Crybaby cry, no baby, no cry."
Joy Fox: Yeah, that's from a song.
Diane: I love it.
Joy Fox: “Sing, sing, sing. Why it makes me laugh out loud.” Bruce was so good with the brush, you know with the watercolor brush, and the calligraphy of the brush, and all that. That affected me a lot. I like carving, and making the marks. It's very important to me. These words, these things that have turned into words, they started as patterns maybe, and then function as calligraphy and hieroglyphics.
Diane: They just come out of you intuitively.
Joy Fox: Sometimes it does, sometimes it's not worthy at all. It depends if it's flowing. Sometimes it's not flowing at all. You probably feel the same way in painting because you think, "Oh my God, what is wrong with this day or what's going on?"
Diane: Yes . . .sometimes you'll be painting, and you won't even know where your ideas and gestures comes from, and you'll suddenly find them in the painting. You need a certain color or another shape or you suddenly need to paint a bug in it or extra things. And you don't really know where it all came from, but it seems essential to the work. When I wanted to interview you, part the reason was because your work just feels so intuitive.
Joy Fox: You know the really ultimate place to be is when your mind is empty. That's what all the yoga, and meditation is all about it's just like emptying your mind. That’s what happens I think eventually once you get your mojo going. I love all these terms from songs and things because they're always descriptive. Descriptive, and simplified or something. That's what happens, you get your mojo working, and something happens, something clicks.
Diane: Have you ever lost track of time?
Joy Fox: Oh yeah. Lots of times.
Diane: It is something we've been trained into I guess. Have you had areas in any of these pieces where you felt like there was a big struggle or a struggle with either the elements or the medium or just. . .
Joy Fox: Well for sure. Things sometimes just don't go too well. I just usually work through it. Sometimes I have to leave it alone, go to something else. Sometimes I have to go sit in my chair, and look at images or I do a lot of visualization. Sometimes I just go over there, sit there, and look out the window, and think. I guess you'd call it visualizing.
If I can't, then I do drawings too, I have a book that I do a lot of little drawings of things. Ordinary things don't come out exactly like those drawings they go through big changes. And but it gives me a starting point, with the drawings. But you know the struggle, there's always a struggle. I think I've maybe learned how to go onto something else, not get too stuck. Like knowing when something's finished, you say, "I don't like this, I don't like this, I don't like this." And then all of a sudden maybe you just leave it alone, come back to it, and you know what to do.
Diane: So have you had periods in your life where you've felt like it was hard to come back to the studio?
Joy Fox: After a show it's always a little hard after everything is cleared out. I come out, and everything's gone and that can be difficult. A lot of times that's when maybe I'd take a trip or something.
Diane: To get re-inspired?
Joy Fox: Yeah, to get recharged. That’s one of the main reasons I travel is to get to look at art, look at nature. I do a lot of birding, I love plants, and so it's not too hard out here either because you just take a hike, and you just never get bored. There's always some surprise that's just around the corner.
Diane: You're such a positive person. I don't imagine you've ever really thought seriously about giving this up.
Joy Fox: Well I don't know. After the last show I had I didn't do anything for a couple of months. I just left it. I think, you know I'm getting towards the end of my life, and there are a lot of things I want to do that maybe aren't clay. Clay is so basic I want to get back into drawing more. I used to draw a lot more than I do now. I can't even seem to take the time out to do that. I don't know, there's just too much to do. I have way too much stuff going on in my life. I'm just surrounded by inspiration, kids art, children's art.
Diane: Yes, you draw a lot from children's art.
Joy Fox: I do. I always have. And now the kids are all getting older. And well Cezanne will someday have kids. There’s so much stuff I want to do. I want to go through all of Bruce's work, and get it more organized I have it all photographed and numbered and all that.
Diane: I don't work in clay but I feel a pull from it, and I wonder when you dream, do you dream in clay?
Joy Fox: No, but I do a lot of visualizing like say before I go to sleep, I think about figures or pieces or something I want to do. And sometimes when I wake up, I lay there and think about it. Bruce used to have these wild dreams. I mean, I'll have a wild dream once in a while, but his would always be visual.
Diane: Well these shapes that you have that come to you during waking consciousness are so dream-like. When you're mediating, they just seem to come through to you whenever you're in the zone.
Joy Fox: And like I say, I do a lot of visualization and looking, just looking at animal forms, and human forms, and plant forms.
Diane: There's a lot about the relationship between animals and humans in your work.
Joy Fox: Yeah. Well I love working with the human figure. I love doing different heads, you know different head studies.
Diane: Once you get a piece resolved, and you've got it suddenly together, and it works, can you describe what that feels like?
Joy Fox: You know it's a good feeling even though those feelings are sort of fleeting. But that gives you impetus to go onto something else. I work pretty rapidly and I don't stew over too much.
Diane: So as soon as something's done, you're done.
Joy Fox: I'm ready to go on to something else. I'm ready to go try other things, and I always want to experiment with different clays. I do a lot of experimentation with just the clays I dig around here, and mixing clays together, and just trying different combinations.
I've been working with paper clay, and then high fire clay, low fire clay; just all different kinds of glazed piece, some different kinds of glazes. Most of the glazes I just purchase, I don't really mix glazes too much. I just see a color I like, so I buy it and use it. But I don't use a lot of glaze, most of these colors are under glazes.
Diane: What is paper clay?
Joy Fox: That's this. This is this white clay and it's got paper in it. I just got a bunch of it recently. Most people don't want to mess with reconstituting it. You have to soak it, and mix it, and then wedge it back out. So what I end up doing is buying maybe a ton of a particular kind of clay. My favorite clay, one that's so great for the figures is a beige, kind of a beige-y clay, and it's groggy, it's real sculptural. It doesn't crack, and dry, and it's a really solid and easy to work with. So I buy that, and then you start with a scrap. I mix some together and they all work differently. Some of them are real fine. So I might want to do something with white fine clay where I want to do something small like a figure of something. This paper clay has got a lot of paper in it, and then it burns out, so it's lighter, and it's real easy to work with. You can just stick it together. You don't have to really work it together much. I've liked it; I've liked the feeling of it.
Diane: You were talking about reconstituting, and all this hard work. But I remember one time you were telling me that you enjoyed working with the clay because it made your back feel good. And all I could think of was that there was something of your energy that you put into the clay that was being released into the clay.
Joy Fox: That was true even when I first started at UCLA and I took my first clay experience, and even while I worked on little things as a kid. Do you see the coffee tea set over there? I was twelve I think when I did those.
Diane: Are they that old really?
Joy Fox: Yeah. Honest. Those little pitchers were the first things I threw on the wheel.
Diane: Oh how fascinating.
Joy Fox: My mother had all those. That's why I have those now; I got them back from her. I'm kind of glad that I'd given her so many things because I now have, things from every period of my life.
Diane: I think it's wonderful that you have your beginnings here with you. And then you have the ongoing and the future.
Joy Fox: It's all right here. These are from when I was studying with Paul Soldner. Some of the early pieces, there are four pots up there. And then my work became less functional, started getting more sculptural. I think it changed when I was in Mexico and started doing little figures. I have a couple of those left, but there's one up there, little figures where I was firing with cow manure down in Mexico.
But about my back . . .so I started working on the wheel, I had polio when I was young and my back always bothered me. They had me do some traction to help me with the curvature, and so I started working on the wheel at that same time. And I mean, the pain went away, it just went away. I never had any more problems until I got old now. I have a little bit of arthritis, but the yoga's really been helping. I don't have to take anything for it.
I haven't been working on the wheel much. I'm going to do some more because I like doing functional stuff once in a while. I like working on the light stoneware with the painting on the plates. I've got a whole bunch at the house. I can show you painting figures on white plates, and dishes, and I'm kind of out of all those. I usually do a couple of loads, and then I give them away for gifts, and use them myself. And now I'm out of all of them. So I’ve got to get back on the wheel now, and see how it affects my back.
Diane: I have one more question because I know I'm going to tire you out.
Joy Fox: Oh no, that's all right.
Diane: And you sort of did answer it when you were talking about how you would be working, and then you'd glance and another piece that would kind of catch your attention, and want your attention. But I really want to know if you've ever felt that you were responding to the voice of another. And some people call it spirit while they're in the work, and some will call it Providence, and some call it their higher selves. But is there, was there ever an awareness that you know, you really aren't alone in this work?
Joy Fox: Oh very much so. Especially I have these conversations with Bruce all the time. You know just sort of, I mean they're real.
Diane: They're real.
Joy Fox: Because I always think, "Well what would he say about this or that?" because he was always really good at verbalizing. I mean it's funny because he was good at verbalizing but he wasn't good at writing something down, and then presenting it, that kind of thing. He was just good at communicating between people one on one.
Diane: Yes, I do remember.
Joy Fox: And so definitely I feel that, and I feel that there is a conversation kind of within an inner conversation a lot. And so I don't know how to exactly describe it, and then I think the pieces speak. It's a way of saying. I think it's part of a continuum. This is the oldest art form in the planet.
Diane: That's right.
Joy Fox: I mean, you know they're still digging up the earliest pieces. They discovered how to fire clay pretty early on. It’s just very ancient and I feel a real connection to the others. Here's Nampeyo, she was always a heroine of mine, a Hopi potter. She died in 1942, this picture is from 1901. So that’s, her, she still has people in her ancestors making pots. Great granddaughters, and daughters, and these different periods. I think just even being there, and being with that art, and what those people were doing and saying. I think that comes through.
Diane: I do too.
Joy Fox: I don't know if you would call it a continuum. It's like a conversation going on since the millennium.
Diane: Like almost a channeling.
Joy Fox: Yeah.
Diane: Bruce Elwin McGrew.
Joy Fox: Yes, I made this. I never finished it and I’ve got to. Every once in a while, I think I'm going to do it. This is a poem. It was supposed to be a water figure. And this poem, this was right after he died W. S. Merwin wrote for his memorial. It says, "You left us the colors, sand, rocks, and the shapes of late summer." He wrote that after Bruce died and it has another couple lines to it. Anyway, so this was something I started, but I never finished it. And it's going to be some kind of water figure sometime.
It will happen one of these days. It's only been 13 years, 12 years.
Sholtz and Gavron (2006) remind us that clay work; the process of handling, manipulating and sculpting clay, taps into primary modes of expression that may have evolved before verbal language and these modes of expression are linked to actual feeling and memories that were encoded through touch and movement. Joy Fox and I discussed how comforting it was for her to just hold a lump of clay. Simply to hold it, feel its coolness and plasticity means something to her in her most primary ways of giving and receiving. The clay invites her and continues to invite even now when she might prefer to draw.
Historically, clay has been used by many cultures as a connective medium to the spirit world. It is believed that many of the oldest clay figures were used in magical and ritual ceremony as symbols of goddess or god and symbols of power over the natural world. Joy Fox’s sculptures are undeniably totems of power.
From my perspective, when an artist chooses to create in most cases the act of creating occurs between artist and art in the imaginal realm where the work becomes spiritualized, where creativity begins to speak as the work itself. However some artists invite a change agent into the process that influences this conversation by its very presence and character. The artist must always remain humble and step aside in the act of allowing. To involve an element such as fire, invites an other of no mind. It is not an other that has propensity to create. Fire releases energy and converts substances in ways that demand respect. An artist who creates in partnership with fire must have an inner core that can withstand and that has known change in all venues through the continuum so as not to fear it.
Fire is not patient like water is. Fire is willful where water is nurturing and familiar and knows us better than we know ourselves. I would not say Joy Fox has faith in the fire so much as she has faith in the willfulness or the language of releasing that belongs to fire. To make a form by muscling the fine silt of the earth, water assists and helps the form to evolve. The artist’s energy is pounded, folded, and kneaded into the clay. The creation of forms from clay comes from the deepest center of the soul. Fire then releases it, releasing Joy Fox to the very same time and space of the ancients the first potters and all others in between.
The invitation of the clay is a call to the work for Joy Fox to re-remember in the most primal way, as the feel of the clay in her hands was the same feeling for all the ancestors. This medium has never changed and requires the movements; touch sensations, and wordless communication as the earliest humans experienced. She converses with the ancestors as she works, her images are tributes to the creatures and elements of nature, gods, and time. The ancestors return through her, through her work and her offerings to the fire.
The question of where crisis appears for Joy Fox posed an interesting challenge of stepping back from the voices she has included in her choir of creation, or the council of elements and ancestors. The images of the tall sculptures rising out of the desert keep reappearing in my mind. I see them welcoming me to enter the gate to her home, I see them lined up along the front of her studio and surrounding the table where she works the clay. Large pieces sit covered in plastic to keep them moist, I see the parts and pieces laying in piles, groups, and arrangements. The surfaces of the pieces as individual works of art reveal symbols, landscapes, and poetry. I remember Joy Fox’s account of the turning point where her work became less and less utilitarian. Her first departure from objects of use were small human figures and it occurred to me that they may not have been small in a fetish-like way, but small as in the distance. They were muses in the distance, on the horizon and their arrival changed everything.
Artistic crisis requires something from a seasoned artist, it requires the nod of reassurance and faith; and so to find Joy Fox’s crises I looked for her faith.
"Things sometimes just don't go too well. I just usually work through it. Sometimes I have to leave it alone, go to something else. Sometimes I have to go sit in my chair, and look at images or I do a lot of visualization. Sometimes I just go over there, sit there, and look out the window, and think. I guess you'd call it visualizing." (Joy Fox, interview, August 2013)
Dismemberment aptly sums the character and creative space of Joy Fox’s call to transformation. Not only do the works function as art in the dismembered state, but they seem to want to have their say in how they are “re-membered” within the work. I suspect now at the point of dismemberment the ancestral voice of clay and the willful voice of fire have finally quieted down. She sits waiting for her own intimate conversation with the work and the “spiritualizing” of the piece. For this to happen she must face dismemberment and follow the soul of the work, she must listen to that sacred language of no words.
Reconstructing the bones that have returned from the dust of the earth, returned from the fire of the universe now require something of Joy Fox in order to be spiritualized, they require what Romanyshyn (2007) discusses as the Fifth Moment: dismemberment, mourning, transformation in the Six Orphic Moments. Orphism teaches that human souls are divine and eternal and destined to repeated cycles of grieving in order to evolve and advance. With each stage of development, there is a looking back at the unsaid, undone, or unresolved; a letting go and then a move forward. All of these stages involve a unique character of grief.
Romanyshyn (2007) makes the analogy of these cycles to research and the search for self appropriately, and when art becomes a path of discovery, self awakening, spiritualization it too moves within the cycle. The Six Moments in the cycle are characterized by Romanyshyn (2007, p. 61) as: Being Claimed by the Work, Losing the Work/Mourning as Invitation, Descending into the Work/Mourning as Denial, Looking Back at the Work/Mourning as Separation, Dismembered by the Work/Mourning as Transformation, and The Eurydician Question: Mourning as Individuation.
Each of these moments can be found in Fox’s process, but crisis enters the scene in the fifth moment, the moment of confronting dismemberment. In the fifth moment, the artist must let go of the work and imagine it in a different way. The clay has been worked, formed, carved, and fired into the heads, arms, and trunks of the sculptures. Until now, the ancestors have assisted Fox, up until now she has been with child and pregnant with a “being” she can’t see or know. She sets the fired pieces out and waits letting go of her own involvement in the individual forms and surfaces knowing that they will now take on a different reality, the work will come into its own. There is a very subtle process of re-contextualizing and detaching; a moment of grief, and then movement to the stage of individuation (sixth) when the pieces become an individual. It would follow that once that happens, as Fox indicated, she is done with the piece and wants it to leave the studio either to be shown or live elsewhere.
If you look at Joy Fox’s work as the reversal of the process of death and the movement toward rebirth the true sacrifice exists as it did for Orpheus in mourning and in grief. Dust, earth, clay as the forgotten reconstructed by the water, nourishment. The energy of creator voices of the continuum form and resurrect the bones, fire releases from the world of the dead and the past, and now grief must be revisited and “re-membered”. Transformation and spiritualization comes from the process remembering and then moves to individuation bringing the work into being.
The earth, the iron of the clay have absorbed into the skin of Fox’s hands and arms as she gathered the dust from the scatters of time to stand and witness again as sages. Their stories now can be known from their one or many faces, their scarred surfaces of journey and the animal parts that assist them.
I watched while at the highest place on Joy Fox’s property a new grouping of the giant talismans were placed and she was directing the instillation of lights for the interiors of these “beings”. They would light the hilltop in the lonely darkness of the desert. Weren’t they now able to send light back to the stars and the continuum? I believe so. To a great extent, I see Fox in her “sorcery of resurrecting”, having been granted ancient alchemical secrets, successfully returning home to The Beginning.
Romanyshyn, R. (2002). Ways of the heart: Essays toward an imaginal psychology. Pittsburgh, PA: Trivium.
Romanyshyn, R. (2007). The wounded researcher: Research with soul in mind. New Orleans, LA: Spring Journal.