Devra Fox: Wish, Bone focuses on the notion of containment. Fox’s drawings have always sought to express likeness without the presence of a physical body, though in this exhibition, the idea has shifted from the specificity of an individual subject to a looser, nuanced idea about what can be held within a body or vessel. For Fox, the universality of plant life, and shapes found in the study of botany, physiology, and anatomy, act as this vessel, expressing what has become known as the artist’s signature visual terminology.
Trained initially as a printmaker, Fox has always appreciated the dynamism and possibility of paper as a medium. Because of its unforgiving quality that demands precision and delicacy, the immediacy of paper forces Fox to adapt as she creates her drawings, understanding that her practice is often dictated by both the breadth and limitations of the surface. Graphite, Fox’s additional chosen medium, is a highly malleable material by contrast, that contains within its monotone a breadth of opacities. At its darkest dark, the element feels impenetrable, though its lightest light can be airy and porous. Fox explores the chromatic possibilities of graphite in Wishbone (2023) and Held at the Hips (2023), where large voids anchor willowy branch, leaf, and bone-like forms that emerge from a center chasm.
Orbs, fingers, petal motifs, and leaves recur in Fox’s drawings, and she frequently morphs these shapes through various treatments, pushing them to their limits. However in these works, the artist makes direct references to the human body, expanding her vocabulary to break open some of the forms she returns to time and again. Elaborating on shapes found in scientific renderings of female reproductive systems, the drawings reflect where the artist finds herself personally, in her mid-30s. This is especially potent in her series, Waiting Landscape (1, 2, and 3). The physiological and metaphysical cycles she is currently experiencing, though they have always found their place in her practice in one way or another, have recently become more top of mind.
The links between plant life and the human body reflect themselves in the biological cycles and transitions we move through both in interior and exterior ways, and the title of the exhibition, Wish, Bone further articulates this complex. Fox’s mother was an avid collector of wishbones (in addition to wind up toys, tiny spoons, masks, candlesticks, miniature chairs, and more). These items took on greater import after she passed away, and Fox began to explore a means to visually express even a sliver of that significance in her work. She thus became interested in cultural or religious objects whose importance is linked to their representation or even containment of a physical body. Reliquaries (containers that hold a body fragment belonging to a saint or otherwise holy person) or milagros (objects that are physically shaped like a body part and used as a token of gratitude or prayer for healing), come to mind. Wishbones fall into this category, articulating both our connection to a base animal form, a bone, linked with a very human tendency to put faith in the supernatural, a wish.
Devra Fox (b.1989, Seattle) received her BA in Studio Art from Bard College and MFA in Visual Art from Columbia University. Fox participated in residencies at Pocoapoco, The Women’s Studio Workshop, The Vermont Studio Center and Kala Art Institute. Fox’s work has been exhibited in numerous shows nationally and internationally. Devra Fox: Wish, Bone is the artist’s first solo exhibition with Nicodim.