3x3 Three Minutes, Three Questions Artist V.L. Cox

Posted: April 21, 2017 at 1 a.m.

Artist V.L. Cox says her work “took a drastic change” in 2015, when she realized it could be a voice “for the most vulnerable in our society.” “A Murder of Crows: The End Hate Collection” is on show through the end of April at the Fayetteville Underground.

V.L. Cox remembers a birthday party in 1969 in her hometown of Arkadelphia. She was barely in school, but she learned that summer what racial prejudice meant.

"In 1968, which was the last year of the deadline set by the courts that you had to desegregate, the first African-American child was in my first grade class," the North Little Rock artist recalls. "She was quiet and sweet, and I really liked her. That following summer I had a birthday party -- in August -- and she was invited. It was then we started getting the hateful phone calls. Several of the parents wouldn't let their children come to my party because I had invited a black child. I remember very unkind words and not understanding that at all. It just didn't make any sense to me.

FAQ

‘A Murder of Crows:

The End Hate Collection’

WHEN — Through the end of April

WHERE — The Fayetteville Underground, on the southwest corner of the Fayetteville square

COST — Free

INFO — 871-2722

BONUS — An artist talk on “Art and Social Justice” with V.L. Cox & UA associate professor Angie Maxwell is set for 2 p.m. Sunday.

"We had the party anyway, and I remember her father as he drove up to my birthday party in an old pickup truck and dropped her off. I'll never forget his smile."

The experience didn't immediately inspire Cox to make art that would end hate. She was, in fact, already an artist -- "I even have photos of me drawing with my father at the age of 2," she says -- and was painting typical subjects -- "barns, flowers and other traditional scenes" -- by the age of 14. She earned a bachelor of fine arts in computer graphics at Henderson State University and worked in the scenic industry and advertising field while still painting "on the side."

"During my last stint in the corporate world, my paintings had started steadily selling, so in 1997 I walked away from the 'cube life' and became a full-time artist," Cox says. "I didn't starve to death, so I took that as a good thing."

And then, Cox's world turned upside down. Here, she answers three questions for What's Up!

Q. Did you start out as a more traditional artist and morph into what you do now?

A. I had begun my 25-year series 'Images of the American South,' a found-object narrative body of work where I portrayed people of the South behind old screen doors with old vintage advertising attached, but it wasn't until two years ago (2015) when my work took a drastic change. Due to a resurgence in a reckless, discriminatory political climate, for the first time in my career I realized that money and sales were not the most important things in life. All that meant nothing if the fragile boundaries of freedom and justice were not protected and preserved for the most vulnerable in our society. In this evolutionary moment, something inside me changed, and I discovered that I could passionately convey a message with my work that had the ability to tell the story of personal experiences, history and where we've been as a society and where we cannot ever allow ourselves to go again. My work hasn't been the same since. Neither have I.

Q. In this time when the arts seem endangered, how do you explain their importance to skeptics?

A. The arts are the lifeline of knowledge, understanding and history. It's our connection, preservation and documentation to civilizations of the past and present. Keep in mind though that threats from skeptics are nothing new. The arts have always been endangered on history's timeline regardless of political or religious influence in society. [But] the arts are also the strongest when they are challenged. Never forget that the most powerful movement of all, the Renaissance, which means "rebirth," was born out of plague, death, war and repression. The arts will always find a way. Always.

  1. Do lighthearted pieces of art ever make it out your door? Or has the need for art with an impact precluded that possibility?

They do. However, I go where the creative flow takes me. I find that opening myself up to simple human emotion through my work and inviting others to peer inside opens a door to the viewer too. It's a pure moment, when a lost connection to humanity can be restored. And that is what the power of the arts is all about.

-- Becca Martin-Brown

bmartin@nwadg.com

NAN What's Up on 04/21/2017