Artist Eye View: B. Shawn Cox
Artist Eye View:
Centering much of his work around vintage photographs, B. Shawn Cox works to capture or interpret different moments throughout modern history. Paint, plaster, clay and anything else he can find laying around his house are often featured as part of his art.
You have degrees in both architecture and law. How does that affect your art?
“While creating and making art has been an ongoing thread throughout my life, the practices of architecture and law have opened unique business perspectives and created technical viewpoints adapted from both professions. Both took me from a small rural background into large cities and opened my eyes and mind to a bigger world and urban living. My work harkens to my rural ranching upbringing. The density and vibrancy of city life led to exposure to world class museums, galleries and diverse cultures. These things fed voracious visual appetite and created an urban, mature filter through which I view and examine the insights and visions linked to my formative years growing up ranching in dusty Monahans, Texas.”
Your work is described as currently exploring two paths. Can you tell us more about that?
“I see my role as an artist exploring both imagery and materials used to create an expression. My painting-based practice involves reimagining vintage icon portraits into contemporary patterned narratives. The folded paper assemblages transform the information on the paper as well as the paper itself into a module that’s issued to create a new expression. Each module is folded to link into a quilted/meshed construct challenging the original meaning. The work organically diverges into two main paths at this point and we shall see if the two paths converge or continue to diverge as both equally intrigue, challenge and engage me in different ways.”
What inspires you the most?
“I’m drawn to explore the ‘how’ and ‘why.’ Inspiration comes from the internal stories I imagine and tell myself in an effort to understand, those stories that others share and tell and the collective mythology we as a society express throughout our media, writings and art. I’m drawn to attempt to discern the underlying message or insight as well as the way that message is expressed.”
We’d love to hear more about your most recent Western-themed collection.
“In stark contrast to the sweaty, dusty ranch memories I created growing up, the ‘Western’-themed series was inspired by an inquiry into the mythology of the westward movement with cowboy as an cultural/mythical icon — again viewed through the perspective of today’s multicultural, diverse culture, social perception and modern technology. The carefully selected icon of Cowboy/Cowgirl is appropriated from found media and stills from the past — isolated and integrated into a modern contemporary setting. I’ve explored visual concepts of gender equality, social role models and visually explore both personal and social myths associated with the Wild, Wild West from a cinematic perspective.”
What do you think makes a piece of artwork most powerful?
“Art can resonate with a viewer on multiple levels. When the work triggers personal insights, ideas or memories while visually/texturally enticing a viewer, a personal connection is made, at least for me. In a nonverbal way, the artist’s work engages the viewer. I believe the power of a work is measured by its ability to go beyond the carefully, masterfully crafted image or composition and transfix, transport or trigger the viewer to an elevated emotional, intellectual or personal level.”
What led you to pursue art as a profession?
“I have been since a very early age a maker, tinkerer and a crafter. The mental/technical skills of how to make do with what you have are part of growing up in a rural setting. Art as a profession was always an inkling in the back of my mind, while the pragmatic side of my reality pushed toward more traditional career paths. In so many ways, the becoming an artist was circumstantial rather than planned. The proverbial Universe eventually prodded me enough to make the shift from a stay-at-home dad doing contract legal gigs to enter a studio tour about seven years ago. The compulsion to keep making, evolving and exploring has fed that small show in our garage apartment with a few sales to a full-time studio practice where I consistently work more hours per week than I ever billed as an attorney.