Rice University
Rice Magazine| The Magazine of Rice University | No. 1 | 2008

Memories from Dust

When artist Mark Fox decided to move from Cincinnati, Ohio, to New York City, he knew he had a problem. His 6,000-square-foot studio in Cincinnati was full of stuff, but his new space in New York was only 400 square feet. He realized he’d have to get rid of a lot of what he owned, but somehow, he just couldn’t bring himself to eliminate everything entirely. So he drew it all.

Memories from Dust
“Dust,” Fox’s Summer Window installation for Rice Gallery, was filled with black ink drawings of almost all the items Fox once owned, such as a vacuum cleaner, Christmas lights, C-clamps, a stuffed lizard, a toy horse, desk chairs, a ladder, a giant fan and even a stray corncob holder. He cut the drawings into the shapes of the objects, painted their backs fluorescent green and mounted them on wires that extended from a wall constructed just behind the gallery window.

“All my prior work was about manipulation and about how people move or control things, collect things,” Fox explained. “Now, I was being denied movement by the things I owned; the things kind of owned me in a way.”

The massed images seemed to float and swirl in space like the vortex of a tornado — sparse in the center with dense clusters at the edges, as if some force was sucking all of Fox’s possessions into oblivion. The luminous green paint on the backs of the drawings reflected against the wall behind them, creating the ominous atmospheric effect he saw as a boy when he witnessed a tornado’s destructive funnel cloud.

“After I drew things, there was an assessing process,” Fox said. “The stories behind the objects I owned came back as I drew them.”

In the end, Fox may have jettisoned a dumpsterful of stuff, but he got to keep his memories in images that produced a fantastic installation.