Austin based artist Alyson Fox was one of the first people I ever wrote about on my art blog, The Jealous Curator. Why? Well, she made me jealous…in an admirational/inspirational way. Her beautifully bizarre drawings completely pulled me in. Each one tells a story, a very weird, absolutely gorgeous story: faceless girls on fancy chairs surrounded by bunnies; kissing contests with hobby-horses; blindfolded girls under an apple tree. I wanted to know more about her, and when I started to dig around I didn’t find too many answers, but I did find a huge amount of work that she’s completed in a number of disciplines. She is an amazingly talented woman—she makes things from paper, fabric, books, ceramics, tape, wallpaper, office supplies, photographs, old tattered things, new polished things, furniture, and plaster—and so I was thrilled when she agreed to do this interview because I’ve had many questions about her and her work for long, long time.
Fox holds degrees in photography, sculpture, and installation art. She designs for commercial ends and designs things for no end at all. Her work has been published in the New York Times, Nylon, Domino, and Lucky to name a few and has been shown both nationally and internationally. Fox also designs a small line of limited edition pieces for purchase under the name “a small collection.” She’s currently working on textile designs and a few collaboration projects. Due out this year is a new line of plates, luggage and a book featuring her art. She lives and works in Austin TX with her husband and puppy dog.
The Fiddleback: Hi Alyson—thanks so much for chatting with me! I’m surprised you had a free moment; I thought you’d be busy drawing, or taking photographs, or designing jewelry, or signing your recently published book, or putting out another dishware line. On that note, I have to ask: do you have one discipline that you consider a favorite?
Alyson Fox: No, not at all. I love dabbling in a lot of things. I feel the process of working with different mediums really inspires/influences ideas in each medium for me. I have a hard time just focusing on one thing so I feel more comfortable working on a few projects at a time. If I’m designing a lot and I see a great drawing somewhere it makes me want to start drawing. That’s how it usually goes. I have been incredibly lucky to have had the opportunities to collaborate with great companies on objects/products and I would say that is what I am focusing on more these days but I don’t really have a favorite.
The Fiddleback: Your illustrations are so beautifully bizarre—where do the ideas for those crazy scenarios come from? For example, I really want to know what’s going on with that bear, the electrodes, and those two orange astronaut-type people.
AF: Thank you so much. I’m so happy that you like them. They come from old family photographs, memories, American history, short stories and insecurities mostly. I like to balance on this idea of both familiar and alarming. It’s hard to say exactly what is going on in each drawing I do, but in that particular one you mentioned: dreaming, transporting, changing, journey, controlling, relationships and experimenting come to mind.
The Fiddleback: If and when an artist block hits, how do you get through it? What/who inspires you to get back into the studio?
With my drawings I have not been interested in exploring personal identity. It’s more about story telling.
AF: I definitely get them, and I’m still working on the best way to get through them. I used to be so hard on myself if I did not work on something that I actually liked the outcome of every day/week. I try and work on something creative everyday but the days that seem like they are going nowhere fast I try and let go and play with our dog, bake, do some yoga or look through books. I think that is part of the process of working on something creative—having dud days or even weeks. I think the best thing to do it to allow yourself to take time off. And really tell yourself that. My husband is always a really good sounding board for me and helps me to get back to making work. Ideas hit you at the weirdest moments so I say go and explore something else for a bit if you are blocked.
The Fiddleback: Why are all of your subjects (well, the human ones) faceless?
AF: I think when an identity is removed from a human figure it’s easier to step into the scenario a bit. With my drawings I have not been interested in exploring personal identity. It’s more about story telling. I think that is why I started my Shade of Red portrait series. A photo project that focused on faces and identity. I thought it would be interesting to do something of contrast to my drawings. I have not been focusing too much on drawings lately, but I am eager to sit down and work on some and see where I go with them.
The Fiddleback: Pigs, and bunnies, and bears, oh my! Animals seem to play a huge role in most of your illustrations—any particular reason?
AF: I have a great respect for animals. For me animals, often times, can more subtly connote emotional states than humans can. There’s a certain sincerity in animal forms and when they are juxtaposed into human scenarios or alongside human forms they can say more about a feeling while still seeming abstract and fantastical.
The Fiddleback: Are there any artists that make you jealous in an admirational/inspirational way? If so, why?
AF: Oh, yes. Many. To name a few: Rachel Whiteread because of her materials and process. Louise Bourgeois because of her daily dedication, personal/emotional work and broad range of mediums, Hella Jongerius for her smart designs, Miranda July for her dark humor and William Eggleston for his incredible photographs.
The Fiddleback: What are your three most favorite items in your studio right now?
AF: A vintage wood block set of strange shapes that I found at a thrift store, a photograph of me and my sister that my dad took when we were wee ones riding tricycles (I love the composition, the blurred motion and colors) and a neon fountain pen that my friend Amanda recently gave me for my birthday.
The Fiddleback: So, it seems like you’ve already done it all—any thoughts on what might come next?
AF: I definitely have not done it all. I try things and sometimes they work out, but often times they don’t. I’m really into making patterns right now so I think a line of textile based objects for the home and maybe a kids book is next…
The Fiddleback: Both of those things would would be amazing! I’ll keep an eye out for that—thank you so much, Alyson!
headshot by Michael A. Muller