Sue Fox: Color Meditations [Interview]
Admission-I am a paper hoarder. I have collected small scraps of paper that interest me for years. This has significantly helped my cause. I salvage magazines (“National Geographic” mostly) and flip through the pages in zeal for interesting color and texture samples, and then arrange them in small piles-I do this a lot…my husband says “I am obsessed.” I may be, because I have found that I am now color sampling with my eyes things I see on the street in my everyday life-example-“Wow, that is a really impressive blue on that person’s shirt” or ‘If I could just take that green in my wasabi," I wish I could snip so much of what I see day to and put them in my piles.
These piles (the real ones) then go into color organized envelopes. When I decide what my theme is for the piece-example, “I want to recreate this sunset” or “I just want to explore the color orange.” I pull out the coordinating envelopes and then re-organize again, creating piles within piles.
I glue the pieces to my board almost in a meditative state, I try not to force or predict, but let the movement happen and color change happen naturally.
After all is said and done, I coat the entire board in layer upon layer of thick matte medium for resilience, and effect.
Color Meditations: Sue Fox (March 2018 Digital Resident)
MHM: Do you have a favorite Color?
SF: Orange has been my favorite color, since I got over that pervasive 5 year old girly obsession with “pink.” I liked orange because it was an outsider, nobody ever said that it was their favorite color. Orange is a renegade.
MHM: Do different colors affect you emotionally?
SF: Absolutely. There is an entire science dedicated to it in color psychology. That being said, I don’t believe that it all boils down to an easy generalization. Yellow does not signify happiness, creativity, and warmth to everyone. Color’s affect on us is guided by memory and personal experience.
MHM: Can you tell us a story about a color? Maybe a memory, dream, or personal experience?
SF: When I was 17 my mother asked me what I would be wearing to prom, when I said “I wasn’t sure.” She asked, “well, what color do you want to wear?” At the moment, I hadn’t even considered the idea and said still mulling it over, “hmmm….I’m not sure, orange is my favorite color...” My mother’s response was immediately, “you can’t wear orange to prom.” That sealed the deal, I wore orange head to toe, complete with a giant orange tafetta ballgown, orange feather boa, orange wig, orange eyelashes, orange shoes, and orange gloves. When I was 30, my mother asked me what I would be wearing to my wedding. When I responded “I’m not sure...but not white.” She kept her mouth shut, perhaps she remembered prom. I wore teal.
MHM: When did you start this process?
SF: I started this series in December 2016, but didn’t want to show them until I had 10 pieces created - They are a true labor of love and it took a year for me to reach that goal.
MHM: Why do you make art? What goes through your mind when you are creating?
SF: The long and the short of that is, I make art to keep my sanity, and to be less of an asshole. Qigong and the meditative process of art making are probably the only things that make me a bearable human being to interact with. When I am making these pieces, I only focus on the present moment, I do not anticipate or plan my piece. I let my color samples dictate the color and movement changes. It is meditation, that is why I have named this series “Color Meditations.”
MHM: Does your “color sampling” process change the way you view the world?
SF: I think that is sort of a chicken or egg, kind of question for me- Do I color sample the world with my eyes, to make art about it, or do I make art about how I color sample the world? I’m not sure. I do know I am hyper aware and appreciative of color and texture.
MHM: How long does it take you to finish a piece?
SF: At first a 11” x 14” would take me about 2 ½ months, but I have gotten faster. I can now finish a 11” x14” in about 2 1/2 weeks of dedicated work.
MHM: I know you work as an acupuncturist, have you ever noticed any influences from your medical studies that inspire your art practice?
SF: Medicine boils down to Anatomy, and Physiology-that is to say yin, and yang. The physical, and the functional. I use the anatomy/physical/yin/collage/and paint to express the physiology/yang/movement/qi.
MHM: How have your travels influenced the way you view color? Can you describe the aesthetics of a certain memorable experience abroad?
SF: White is the color of weddings and newness in America, and the color of death in many other cultures. I love the dichotomy where worldwide we all have the same views (the sky is blue!) and at the same time possess completely different social and cultural experience that changes our experience and expression of color. I remember a moment in the Peruvian Amazon where I found a piece of wood the size of a Barbie doll laying on the rainforest floor. When I picked it up, I counted 27 different types of plant moss and mold on it. I remember thinking, something like “I am 26 and today, I am now positive I have yet to see all the variations of green-or ever will.” That unassuming stick continues to move me today.
MHM: Did you play with puzzles a lot as a kid? What was your childhood like as an artist? Is there anything that you did as a child that seems to still stick to your creative life today?SF: I was a sickly child, I missed school often due to illness. I was given a beautiful 1000 piece Ravensburger puzzle of a tiger once when I had bacterial pneumonia. It was faulty. The puzzle had 1000 pieces, but the last piece was cut wrong and would never fit in the puzzle. We called the company and complained-they offered to send a new puzzle in replacement. I said “no thanks, I don’t think I want to do puzzles anymore.” My mother is an amazing stained glass artist, and is also skilled at varied craftwork including but not limited to quilting and embroidery. My father is a chemist and an unskilled oil painter who only paints boats. Growing up there was always art projects to be had, and I would be having as our T.V. was locked away in a cabinet, only to be opened on specific occasion and I was often on the side of the couch with a fever. The only thing synonymous with art making as a child, and my art making now - is that color was always pre-eminent, and I still don’t like the color brown.
MHM: How do you infuse movement and vitality into your work? They seem to move like gears.
SF: Choosing the placement of samples’ colors and textures, this simple act of collaging the pieces together creates innate movement. There is always yang within yin.
Sue Fox is a mixed media artist from Chicago living in Chattanooga, TN. She graduated from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2003, and has shown extensively in Chicago, Portland, and throughout the United States. Her work largely focuses on meditation thru color exploration. She has been published in Studio Art Magazine, and was one of GenArt Pulse’s 2010 “three artists to watch. Sue Fox also works as founder and curator of ShapeShifter Gallery a contemporary moving gallery that features quarterly shows throughout Chattanooga.