Judy Fox pioneered painted figuration in the 1980’s, transposing iconic images from various cultures into finely rendered body portraits. Her nudes in mythological poses and period coiffure probed the complex relationship between individuals and the roles they play. Ethnically specific body portraits, they diversified the concept of ideal character and beauty. Her approach to human imagery has remained consistent even as shifts in culture and politics provoke new readings of her work. Since the 2007 grouping “Snow White and the 7 Sins”, thematic installations have included surrealist creatures, in order to probe the depths of a subject in both a biological and psychological sense.
The “Garden” installation reflects upon biblical Eden, where a Serpent tempts Eve to taste fruit from the forbidden tree, a transgression she shares with Adam. The pair will then know good from evil and be ashamed of their nakedness. Expelled from paradise, Eve will procreate in a harsh world where animals prey upon each other, and people must work. Her farmer son, Cain, will kill his herder brother, Abel, an act emblematic of human competition, selfishness, and war.
The central figure of this installation is Eve, as she first perceives the unknown. Her inquisitive eye is caught by a surrealist Snake Tree with a visceral sensuality and an apple red face. In a corner, Young Cain and Abel, outfitted with Sumerian hair, fight grimly in a coupling transposed from genesis scenes in Christian art. Animated plants adorn the walls of the installation. They are built of biological themes of growth, competition, reproduction, and physiology, framing the scene with an evolutionary take on creation.
This installation ruminates upon our understanding of the origins of humanness: the emergence of self-consciousness and morality from the imperatives of biology and evolution. Here the Christian image of Eve is superimposed upon an anthropological one. The figure is posed after the famous Lucas Cranach Eve, a pale beauty with long waves of blond hair who coyly hides an apple behind her back. Physically this Eve is a mashup of references: to the Cranach, to Eden’s Mesopotamian location, to genetically ancient tribes, to western concepts of otherness. As in the European tradition, her physique displays her status as a fertile virgin and a timeless ideal of seductive beauty, her body image transformed by our current knowledge of prehistory.
The biblical myth of Eve’s collusion with the Snake betrays a discomfort with not just sexuality but with female agency; it implies that the expulsion from Paradise is the original cause of human propensity toward evil. But in Fox’s work the humans focus on their roles. It is left to the plants to express a miasma of beauty, temptation, blame and guilt. They manifest the attraction and repulsion we feel when facing our tether to our primordial ancestry.
Judy Fox is a sculptor who works in New York City. As an undergraduate she studied sculpture at Yale (BA 1978) and Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. She received advanced degrees in Art History (MA 1983) and Conservation (1985) from the Institute of Fine Arts, NYU.
The artist has participated in numerous exhibitions around the US and Europe. A fellow of both Yaddo and Macdowell residencies, she has received awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, the “Anonymous Was a Woman” Foundation, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the National Academy of Design, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation and the New York Foundation for the Arts. She has had solo exhibitions at: The Contemporary Museum, Honolulu; Kohler Arts Center, Sheboygan, WI; Kunsthalle im Pallazo, Liestal, Switzerland. She has been the subject of many reviews and articles, including features in Art in America (2000), Artnet (2007), Sculpture Review (2010), O Magazine (2012), Ceramics: Art and Perception (2013), New Ceramics (2015), and , and the Dutch publication Het Grote Boek 2 (2017). She contributed essays to The Figure; Painting, Drawing and Sculpture; Contemporary Perspectives (Rizzoli 2014).
Ms. Fox has been a speaker and visiting artist at various institutions and conferences in the U.S. and abroad. She is currently a Senior Critic and professor at the New York Academy of Art.Courtesy of the artist and Nancy Hoffman Gallery, New York