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Into the Deep: Judy Fox's Sea-Inspired Sculpture
In Judy Fox's studio, a mermaid stands in the corner. Instead of a fanciful tail, she has iridescent legs, tinted bluish purple. Her hair floats above her shoulders as if swept by the ocean's current, her gaze dreamy, if a little sad. The sculpture is part of Fox's exhibition Out of Water, opening October 25. It will be surrounded by ceramic sea worms and cephalopods, including an octopus with eyes "slightly more human than they should be," says Fox—whose genial, easily amused nature belies the eerie intensity of her work.
For more than three decades, she has drawn from art history, mythology, and world events to create beguiling sculptures, like a series of cultural icons (Friar Tuck, Albert Einstein, Saint Theresa) imagined as babies, or an interpretation of Snow White in which the dwarves embody the seven deadly sins. In the current exhibition, at New York's PPOW gallery, Fox turns her playfully subversive eye to the sea, sculpting oddly sexual worms and mollusks a few surreal degrees removed from nature. "Creating these animals felt like intelligent design," she says. "I got to run my own little version of evolution."
Fox first discovered her affinity for sculpture when she experimented with the form as a teenager during summer camp, and honed her technique as an art major at Yale. "I felt at home in sculpture," she says. She is particularly excited by improvisation, incorporating her models' peculiar traits into her sculptures. The mermaid's awkwardly bent fingers, for instance, derive from the model's own double-jointedness. "That kind of discovery is an almost mystical thing," Fox says. "The model becomes a coauthor of the work."
Fox begins her sculptures of humans by photographing a model in a predetermined pose, then shapes, carves, plasters, and paints terra-cotta in a process so intensive that each adult-size sculpture takes roughly a year. "I spend a lot of time getting the curves right, because they create the rhythm and the mood," Fox says. "Sculpting is like standing on a mountaintop before you ski the slope, thinking about how you'll curve your way down."
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