Ladysmith artist Mary Fox is going back to her roots with the Back to the Land exhibition at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria (AGGV).
The art show features the work of Fox and other celebrated potters during the 1970s and early 1980s. It was during that time period that a teenaged Fox began her career as a potter.
For Fox, the exhibition is a chance to reflect upon her career as an artist, especially since the AGGV is one of the first places Fox sold her pots.
“I remember when I first went in and … I took in eight or nine pots and I remember being taken into the back room and the ladies taking them out, and they bought three or four and they paid me on the spot,” she said. “I look back on it and I think they felt sorry for me! And I remember seeing one, this little tiny mug with this little lid, sitting on the shelf, and I don’t even think that it had been put out … and then of course the work started to improve.”
Before Fox was able to sell her work easily, she struggled to pay her bills and her rent. It was difficult, especially as the young Fox watched her friends make more money than she did.
“All my friends had regular jobs. If they were waitresses, they made really great tips they would make more money in a night from tips then I would I a week,” she said. “I used to have to go and borrow money from my dad. He would write it on the fridge, my debt load. I always had to pay it back.”
Because she couldn’t afford it, Fox never went to art school. But, with the help of her dad, she went to Banff, Alta., to study art in a six-week intensive course. It was there that she developed many of her signature glazes and designs.
“I said to myself ‘during the six weeks, I’m not going to make anything that I’ve ever made before …’ — that’s where I developed my hammered bowls, dropped edging and putting pieces together in sections,” she said. “When I came back from Banff, that is when my artwork really started to expand to being out of the box.”
Fox says her lack of formal training helped her develop a uniquely Fox-y style.
“Nobody comes into my gallery and says ‘oh that looks like that so and so,’ because it is distinctly my own work,” she said. “I get designers and people from all over the world to come here.”
Fox says she is honoured to be a part of this exhibition, especially since the other featured potters were once her idols.
“These are the people that showed me the way in so many aspects,” she said. “No one was telling me I could do this for a living, and that was not something that people thought … these people who are in this show, they are my example. Without them, maybe I wouldn’t have become the artist that I am today. Maybe I wouldn’t have seen that it was possible, and they showed me that it was.”
This show is groundbreaking because ceramic exhibitions are rare. Fox says this event is important to raise the profile of pottery as an art form.
“We are being shown in a public art gallery, and clay isn’t usually shown in the big public galleries,” she said. “It’s very important for raising the profile of Canadian ceramics.”
The show opens Oct. 5 and will run until Feb. 3.