I'll admit it: I adore Kim Fox's artwork in a way that makes me feel like I'm shopping for shoes, not standing in a museum. And if that's not serious enough for the art snobs, too bad. Her paintings are sweet, graphic and a little girly. (I'm straining not to use the c-word here. No, not that one "cute.") Birds and trees pop up over and over again, as do chunks of text layered over images. She's also branched out into small mixed-media works boxes containing poetic assemblages of old photographs, bits of wallpaper, stamps, keys … the assembled flotsam somehow adding up to create a tiny atmosphere.
Fox and husband Steve Burry moved to Pittsburgh in 2004, so her art opening this week (at Stardust Video & Coffee) is a rare chance to see not just her work, but Fox herself. There'll also be evidence of her newest obsession: beekeeping.
OW: You moved to Pittsburgh almost two years ago. Have different people, different weather, different light, etc., changed your work in any way?
Fox: Absolutely. I grew up in western Pennsylvania with all four seasons. I think that after a few years in Orlando I realized that I couldn't get used to one long season. It has been fascinating to come back as an adult and really experience what four seasons do to your psyche. We live very differently depending on what season it is we eat different food, we do different things, we go to different places.
There really is a sense that people hibernate. We live in a groovy neighborhood that is super tight-knit, but you don't see people over the winter. In the spring, everyone starts to venture back outdoors, and you reconnect with people. And visually it's a treat. Right now things are dead and brown and black. It's very stark. It's hard to imagine that soon it'll be green and blue and people will be kayaking on the rivers again.
I just finished designing a baby shower invitation for a friend, and I called her and said, "I've been painting, and I'm in a very blustery-wintry-color-scheme these days, and this is maybe not what you want for your baby shower!" The light changes and what I look at changes and what I paint changes.
OW: Aside from your work, how do you feel about Pittsburgh in general? Vis-à-vis Orlando?
Fox: Pittsburgh is nothing like Orlando. Except that there are really great people here, too. It's old. It's industrial. Neighbor-hoods reign supreme here. There are remnants of immigrant neighborhoods that I wish were as strong as they once were, but I guess each successive generation becomes more and more Americanized. Polish Hill, Deutschtown, South Side Slopes, Observatory Hill, Bloomfield and my favorite the Mexican War Streets they're all different and unique. The city sits on three rivers so we have bridges everywhere. It's a visually exciting city. Because of all the hills and bridges and rivers every few feet that you walk or drive, your entire vista changes. Oh, and our boys, the Steelers, are the Super Bowl champions.
OW: A lot of the work you exhibited before you left had a recurring motif of birds, but you also branched into some small installations and assemblages of found objects. The name of this show is Birds+Bees, so I assume the bird motif is still strong with you. How about the other stuff? The modified books, Cornell boxes, etc.?
OW: How do you feel about art as a commodity? I imagine it could be tempting for artists to channel their work in salable directions smaller pieces that are easier to transport/hang and can be priced lower; more traditional forms rather than, say, installations. On the other hand, exposing more people to your work and encouraging people who might not have $1,000 handy to live with original art is a good thing. Do you feel this pull? Do you think it's negative or positive?
Fox: This feels like a trick question! Commodity … I am not sure why I would price things to put them out of the range of affordability. That makes sense for who? Of course, I am not setting out to devalue my work or anyone else's work. I simply do the work I want to do and I put a price on it that makes sense to me, and if someone buys it, terrific. If someone doesn't, I take it home and that's that.
I had to think about transporting this work because I am flying there. And someone at Stardust will have to ship everything back to me so everything is small and small enough to fit into a box. It was interesting to have to think this way about a show. I have to say that I haven't thought about selling any of these pieces. I guess I have planned all along that everything will have to fit into the same box to ship back to me.
When I did my first show, it was a personal goal to show work to make myself do the work. That people liked it enough to buy it was a terrific surprise to me. Since I do this "on the side" I have yet to focus on the moneymaking aspect of it. I might have to get back to you on this issue if I am ever fortunate enough to be in the position to charge enough money to make a living at it. I guess that's how it works: You start out small and hope to build enough interest so that you can raise your prices and eventually make enough money that your art can sustain you. I would worry about becoming a machine and just cranking out work to pay the bills.
OW: Have you found your Stardust equivalent in Pittsburgh? And how's the coffee? You know, Stardust has waffles now!
Fox: No exact Stardust equivalent, sadly. I think it'd be tough to replicate the video rental/book shop/café/bar/gallery/"third place" thing they've got going. There are lots of good coffee shops, though. My favorite is an Italian joint called La Prima they roast their own. Everything is in Italian. All the old Italian men spend their days there, playing cards and smoking and flirting with the firstname.lastname@example.org