Artist Julia Fox has flirted with death, nearly overdosing at the age of 17. A fixture in New York nightlife in the early aughts, when she was just a teenager, Fox has towed the line of excitement and danger. Her new show, curated by Richie Shazam, “R.I.P. Julia Fox,” unearths the erotic and fetishistic elements within the historically taboo realms of the ritualistic, sacrificial and mystical.
Jill Di Donato: Some of your paintings in this show utilize blood on silk. Is this your blood, and if so, describe the process of exsanguination.
Julia Fox: Yes, it’s my blood. I wanted the show to be as authentic and personal as possible. I extracted the blood with a syringe and used the syringe to paint on the silk. It wasn’t as bad as it seems.
JDD: What about the medium of silk attracted you, as an artist?
JF: I love the way blood bleeds on to fabrics. I think the color is mesmerizing. I chose the silk because it’s so feminine in that it is delicate but at the same time its so strong and hard to tear through. I feel like blood is so precious and it’s only right that it be displayed on a fabric which is just as precious.
JDD: You’re known in the fashion world, as a former designer, model, and also a muse. Yet your passion seems to lie with creating art. How do you see fashion as a different medium from art?
JF: I think fashion is a beautiful art. I feel like what you wear is the way you want the world to see you. It’s the first form of expression we develop as people. However, I don’t really feel an urge to express myself through clothing. I find myself feeling much more comfortable expressing myself through art.
JDD: How easy or difficult was it to reinvent yourself as an auteur?
JF: I hadn’t planned on it at all. It just kind of happened organically.
JDD: Do you think that as a New York “it girl,” there were shades of the artist in you?
JF: I kind of consider myself as an anti-it girl. I don’t really care about being seen. I want the things that I create to outshine the person that I am perceived to be, which I think is often not accurate and not really representative of who I am.
JDD: What is the impetus to flirt with the death drive?
JF: I guess I’ve always been fascinated with death. I’ve had a few near death experiences. In one particular instance, I saw the infamous tunnel of light and felt my spirit elevate from my human body and shoot into space. I guess I’ve always wondered where I was going. I’ve always been curious. Subconsciously putting myself in dangerous situations. Perhaps because I would like to revisit that place.
JDD: I’ve found that there’s a thin line between excitement and danger. In particular, New York City makes that line even more blurry. As a native New Yorker, how do you think the city inspires you to tow the line between excitement and danger?
JF: Yes absolutely. I think the things that excite other people don’t even scratch the surface for me. I need much more to feel the adrenaline and the thrill.
JDD: Rituals help manage unsayable emotions. Explain the role of rituals in your work.
JF: I was exploring death in all forms, one of them being sacrificial. Death as an offering to the great creator. Energy can only be transferred, it can’t ever die. During the sacrifice, the host “died,” but it’s energy lives on, possibly in another realm unbeknownst to us. But one day we will all go there. That’s the one thing we have in common. We are all going to die one day.
JDD: What larger forces, in your opinion, work to suppress the primal drive that exist within?
JF: Humans are sophisticated creatures. We continue to have animalistic instincts, however, we have been conditioned over thousands of years to suppress them as they are no longer as necessary as they once were.
JDD: How would you define your aesthetic as an artist, and is it in line with some of your previous incarnations (as party girl, designer, model)? Do you see the self on a continuum, where infinite possibilities are always possible? Or are limitations sometimes insurmountable?
JF: I think we are always evolving and changing and I love that I have experienced so many different sides to myself. They constantly come up in all sorts of other areas of my life. I don’t think people should limit themselves to one thing. I personally want to experience everything and that’s why my life has been a mere collection of crazy and wild experiences that I am now so fortunate to share with the world. Although the show is titled “R.I.P. Julia Fox,” I just want to live.
Fox has published and released Symptomatic of A Relationship Gone Sour: Heartburn / Nausea at MoMA PS1 BookFair, 2015 and also showed her second book PTSD at the LA Art Book Fair in conjunction with Printed Matter, 2017. Her critically acclaimed debut solo exhibition, titled PTSD, was held at Magic Gallery, NYC in May 2016, traveling for its second iteration at 3125c Gallery, Los Angeles in June 2016.
This article first appeared on Culture Trip.