All in the Details: Devra Fox in the StudioJanuary 1, 2014
For workspace resident Devra Fox, sitting perched on a stool in our etching studio, spending hours cutting out intricate shapes with an X-Acto knife is all in a day’s work. A handful of feathers printed on translucent paper sit next to her as she traces along the labyrinthine lines of what looks like a bit of architectural flourish.
“It does become a meditative process that I can’t ever seem to get away from, no matter what I do,” she says. “It takes a long time and it’s meticulous. I think that’s just the way I am—I can’t get away from the details.”
Devra’s meticulousness is obvious in her dynamic pieces packed with baroque excess. Devra is interested in using prints as base materials rather than finished pieces, so her work incorporates printmaking, collage, sculpture, and installation. Undulating rhythmically, small details explode and drip around each other in dense and complex layers, taking on organic forms that recall human viscera and gnarled trees.
“There is something really satisfying for me in the layering, in seeing that little detail that pokes through amidst all the craziness,” Devra says.
Her themes and arcane imagery pull largely from personal history, and her visual vocabulary consists of personal objects, memories, places, friends, family, and culture. As the youngest of four daughters in a highly creative family, Devra grew up surrounded by her mother’s collections, objects that are classified and given meaning through their very accumulation.
For Devra, even individuals are “collections that accumulate over a lifetime” and her collages—which she likens to reliquaries—strive to represent people without their physical forms. Instead, they become a tangled, exploding, confusing mass of intricate pieces that demand intimate engagement from viewers for elucidation. Her “three-dimensional print-based collages” from her Proof of Me series range from three to six feet across, and are installed up to a foot away from the wall.
“It’s important that the viewer moves closer, examines all these strange little parts, and thinks about the ideas being generated,” says Devra. “I’m thinking about very specific ideas in my work, but the exciting thing about art is that everyone’s interpretation is different. These are very intimate ideas that I’m expressing, so for viewers to have intimacy in their interaction with a piece is very important.”
Devra is now exploring where her work could go from here by incorporating new printmaking techniques and new ways of making meaning among her collections. The collages she’s been creating during her four weeks at WSW are constructed from a combination of collagraph, copper plate, and pronto plate prints. Wind-up chatter teeth and a toy monkey are tucked into her current collages, which meditate on her childhood home, growing up, and having no longer having a fixed homebase. Since finishing school in 2011, Devra has lived in New York City, Ireland, San Francisco, and Santa Cruz, and she has plans to travel at the start of 2014. “My work recently has been about me trying to come to terms with how to hold the idea of home inside of me as I’m living in this nomadic way,” she says.
Considerably smaller that the Proof of Me series and meant to be installed flat on the wall, these smaller collages easily fit into Devra’s post-college lifestyle. But working smaller also allows Devra to reconsider how she chooses what to reveal and to obscure in her collages, and to scale back the density of her imagery to explore simpler compositions.
As she kneels on a stool and leans over her work-in-progress, one of Devra’s hands steadies herself against the wall while the other nudges a floral band over a bit of heavy geometric linework. “A lot of times I go into a piece and think, Ok, this time I’m just going to let my images be on their own and breathe a little.” Devra shakes her head. “But then I just keep layering.”
Devra Fox is an emerging artist with a BA from Bard College. Over the last two years, Devra has explored different ways of working in art communities, including as an artist educator for programs at Cow House Studios in Ireland, and at Root Division in San Francisco. She is in the process of applying to MFA programs and she looks forward to having a dedicated studio space. For more of her work, visit her website at http://devrafox.tumblr.com/.