My name is Chris Cox, I regularly post on Instagram as @Wild_Canary.
I am a 31 year old, self-taught artist, coming from a boat building and custom fabrication background, surviving schizophrenia and living in Bristol, Rhode Island USA.
I currently have had two sanctioned or commissioned large scale sculptures on public display in Providence RI. One is entitled POD and is an outdoor, cored fiberglass installation standing 7 feet tall and 12 feet in diameter which can still be seen along in a park along the Providence River on South Water Street. You can see it here https://www.wild-canary.com/pod-providence-installation
The other sculpture was a piece standing at 5'6" tall, 6 feet long, and 3 feet wide, is entitled "Reindeer" and was installed for the holiday season at The Arcade on Westminster and Weybosset street.
But while I work at it, and have achieved some success with my art, most notably being interviewed for the 28th issue of Art Reveal Magazine, invited to be featured in a publication of 10011 Magazine, and being one of two sculptors to win the spring of 2017 Fusion art prize. My art practice is still truly a therapeutic coping mechanism for dealing with my schizophrenia. It is a release valve, or outlet for my manic energy of feelings and a need for belonging, it is my mission to make a difference, an impact on this world. This gives me purpose and direction.
My disease first erupted into something uncontrollable and requiring my first of four involuntary hospitalizations when I was 20. I had just spent the winter in relative isolation, working in a place where primarily Arabic or Spanish was spoken (I speak neither) and spending my days and nights being overwhelmed with the task of trying to theorize on the questions "What is man?"
My schizophrenic delusions are primarily auditory and physical. While I remember being convinced that when my ear rang it meant my friend was in trouble at a young age, and also around the same time having nightly talks with a voice I heard named Michael; I feel I partially created the disease within myself by thinking too much during this period of isolation.
In my quest to belong I became obsessed with figuring out human interaction. I first looked inward and studied my body language to the smallest quiver or ass pucker and took note of what was happening and how I felt when these things happened. Standing on the sidelines I began to watch and observe others postures and mannerisms and patterns of speech. I began to look for codes in people’s conversations and actions, a lifted index finger indicates fear.
I also noticed more and more that people muttered or whispered under their breath sometimes. I began to try listen to this the best I could. I theorized that perhaps other people were listening as intently and perhaps even communicating with each other in these words of breath. I quickly became paranoid of silent collusion between enemies against me. In my desperation to not be out foxed, I question how deep this could go, how quietly could we communicate thought, wishes, or even commands. The sensation of my tongue vibrating became prevalent in my consciousness, I started to think I could transmit to other people through this high frequency vibration, the ultimate whisper. This too led to extreme paranoia of the potential complications of this power and other people having it. Anything can be communicated, with or without it being heard consciously the message could be received subconsciously.
I came the conclusion that it was this subsonic vibration within each of us that controlled our interactions and feelings towards one another almost more than our actual vocal words or physical actions. Still I looked at it deeper. I knew that I could communicate as if I was talking through my vibrating tongue, consciously choosing my words. But I noticed the quivering of my tongue never stopped. I grew worried for this could mean I was communicating with others without control of what I was putting out there. First, I theorized based on the idea of how people talk to them-selves, and also on how I frequently think in words, that could I constantly be speaking my thoughts through these subtle vibrations? Was everyone doing this? Could I hear people’s thoughts if I listened closely enough? Could they hear mine?
My second conclusion was that the constant tingling in my tongue could be my subconscious responses to others silent communications and because they are subconscious they are always honest. It explained “gut feelings” about people, as well as personal emotion towards others or how one feels at a moment. At first this was just theorized as possible to be done with people in the room, then later the next room, and eventually I became convinced that through the sliver down the center of my tongue, I was having conversations with people from vast distances.
Through this belief I envisioned a human hive mind. I called it “Interconnection.” Anyone that cared could hone in on my frequency and communicate with me or hear my transmitted thoughts and responses. If I began to feel angry sad or upset for no reason as we all sometimes do, it meant someone on my wavelength was doing something I didn’t agree with, and like token if I was unexplainably giddy someone was doing something I liked, even if I was consciously unaware of these theorized people’s actions, it still effected my mood real time and in the same breath my actions would affect those would care about me.
Another part and arguably the best part of this hive mind was the ability to ask for advice or guidance and receive it from people miles away. Just simply key into a person who would know more about something and they would subconsciously respond with their insight. How to best to build something, how to walk quietly, opinions on how I was washing the dishes.
But with every schizophrenic relapse there is the change and heavy dosing of medication, and I am made to forget, to have to learn all over again. Learn new beliefs, an idea of self and appreciations, and this includes art. In the periods soon after a re-medication and re-stabilization I even forget art's importance to me and my ability to see it. Which I find odd because during my states of delusion, my disease - self created out of a desire to love and be loved - compels me lash out and be heard while at the same time withdrawing into seclusion for fear of being seen and shunned or morally beaten. This paranoid inability to express, explain, and introduce myself in hopes of recognition and acceptance led me to my art and my imagination. Many if not all my sculptures act as visual metaphors for lessons I have learned about existence through teachings from my schizophrenia. Within them are hidden symbols of riddles and rhymes that allude to rules I created and lived by during my delusional states. They are insightful clues to my periods of psychosis. If you could call what my mind created a "spirituality" rather than a "disease", then these messages are the scripture.
Resulting from the medicinally caused temporary amnesia of self, events, feelings, and memories; the recollection of the creation of many of my designs only comes to me in flashes, i don't remember my complete process or that it was logical steps I took to make these maquettes, all I can truly recall was a peacefully manic sense of being guided to the forms I first fabricate, as if all the answers were laid before me to pick up, pushing me towards some ultimate destiny.
It was during one of my earlier episodes of delusion that I made my first foray into exhibiting my art in both a gallery setting and in the outdoor public domain. At the time I was confident my art needed to be seen but was to afraid to be seen with it or publicly claim my ownership of it. I began silently walking in a small local second floor gallery and dropping off original concept maquettes, clandestinely carried in black trash bags and left on the floor by the gallery desk. I anonymously delivered new creations, on almost a daily basis, in the beginning when asked by the gallery owner "what are you doing?" only able to meagerly reply "I'm sorry I'm terrified of people" and rushing out the door. Too afraid to stay but not too petrified to return again with another black bagged piece. Unfortunately, only a few of the sculptures from this original exhibition series are still in existence and in my possession. The most notable piece still around from this short sculptural campaign is a piece entitled "It could be you."
I started to perceive an acceptance of my art, an idea bolstered by the second-floor gallery's owner's continued willingness to exhibit my latest designs and her cooperation with my method of sneaking in and leaving behind my works for her to unveil from their black bags, only after I had slipped out the door as quickly as I had entered. I grew to crave more exposure, to be noticed by the masses.
I began to scratch this itch for impacting society with my sculptures and publicly expressing my physically represented thoughts and feelings to a broader audience by making a short practice of placing "sculpture graffiti" around downtown Providence by the river. These were quickly made using readily available materials I had in my basement. They were fashioned to be light weight enough to be carried while running and were cheap and quick enough fabrications that it didn't matter that they'd no longer be in my possession and only be installed in the public domain for a short time before being taken down. Instances on two nights stick in my mind.
One night I dropped off a collection of ultra-minimalist 2' tall, 4' wide and 8' long horseshoe crabs; each crab’s figure created by four battens, permanently bent and curved to mimic the tail and hard line creases that make up the shape and form of a horseshoe crab shell, These three dimensional floating lines, intended to transmit a secret message of love to one other that might see their evocation of these prehistoric creatures, were fabricated by laminating high density foam core and loosely wrapping the structural core with resin saturated fiberglass cloth.
Carrying the first of the group of three-dimensional line drawn horseshoe crabs I hurriedly, trying to create a false air of confidence, I walked past a sitting cluster of student aged youths, who should have been close to what I could consider peers. I dropped this initial crab and went back to my van for the other two, avoiding eye contact with the young night time city sitters. I took a different route with the second two minimalist sculptures as to avoid the potentially judgmental eyes and questions of the congregation of seated chatting coeds as if an interaction with them presented an unbearable danger. Like a fool, due to my own paranoid lack of self-confidence and fear of non-acceptance, I passed up on the chance to experience what I really wanted but completely feared; attention.
I previously mentioned one of my surviving original maquettes from my anonymous sculptural series campaign at the second-floor gallery, entitled "It could be you." While my horseshoe crab sculptures were first created in their full eight-foot-long size; This designed maquette was the first one of my smaller designs to be translated on a larger scale. Under the cover of darkness, I built and installed this 6' tall, 4'wide and 5"thick monolithic sculpture. It was of boxed construction, built using scrap plywood, two by fours, and aluminum flashing.
The secret of the sculpture resides within its negative space. This hollow creates the absence of a universal and nondescript form of a human head. This empty void of a facial figure is representative of the potentiality of existence. Until character and past are proven everyone remains unknown, can be potentially be anyone, have done anything, or respond anyway. So long as a person is living; what they can potentially achieve or become is unknown, and the possibilities of their life’s outcome are limitless. I managed to install this large-scale depiction of the enigma of self, using a .22 caliper Ramset nail gun to fasten the sculpture’s base to the pavement just inside an alley way between two buildings, just a couple steps off the main board walk along the Providence River. As luck would have it the night after I left this mini-monumental version of "it could be you" happened to be a night that the famous Providence Water Fire was held.
I traveled back up to the city to see if my illegal anonymous artwork was still in place, to my joy I found it still standing, a looming faceless figure tucked in the alley way while hundreds of people milled about the main board walk just feet away, only some taking a moment to glance down the alley way and notice my creation. I watched, I like my sculpture a faceless figure in the crowd, no one the wiser that it was me who envisioned and created this phantom artwork. I smirked at the irony of the message of the sculpture, its title, and the fact that not one person other than me out of hundreds of people knew where it came from, and as long as I didn't tell all anyone could do is look at another and question that "it could be you" who is the creator. .
But I digress, Currently, I am properly medicated and mentally stable but, I have no funding. At this time, I find myself unemployed after losing my job last winter due to another, and my most recent, schizophrenic relapse. Seeing as I have been unable to maintain gainful employment throughout my adult life and am dependent on the support of my aging parents, I have grown to view the potential of my art as my best chance of achieving self-sufficient survival.
I have been lucky this time of my most recent delusional period and recovery. I managed to avoid forcible hospitalization and the in hand, overbearingly heavy, memory erasing medications. Instead I was able to work with my doctor to get on a new class of medications that, while keeping me free of my symptoms of schizophrenia, still allows me to have a complete recall of what I perceived I experienced during my most recent relapse as well as the ability to remember and reflect on, rationally, the series of beliefs I had been living by and compare them to how I perceive reality now.
Most importantly I was able to retain my appreciation for art and my creative drive. Unlike previous recovery periods after schizophrenic episodes, I have not been forced to forget the mission I have been working towards. I haven't lost my passion this time.
This new medication regimen has allowed me to retain my image of self, all while having the necessary mental stability and clarity that enables me to be able to concentrate on the careful planning of large scale builds, complete the fabrication of smaller copies of my designs with careful accuracy, have the time management skills to keep multiple projects in order while meeting deadlines, and successfully research and apply for opportunities with a confidence and lack of paranoia of social interaction when discussing myself and my art.
Perhaps the biggest difference between this recovery period and previous ones, is that for the first time I have stopped hiding the existence of the struggles I have with my illness from other people. I have chosen not to cower in the face of social stigma surrounding my decease. I have embraced and taken ownership of my diagnosis instead of secretly taking pills and pretending everything is normal.
While I have to live with the scary fact that I could randomly be triggered potentially causing my illness to one day overpower my current medication, possibly resulting in just a minor flare up of symptoms or worse a complete delusional mental break; now that I have accepted and come to peace that I have this illness that most don't understand and because of that some people may think there is something different about me; I am fully free of the fear of owning my art due to its relation to and possible disclosure of my schizophrenic delusions. I have shed my darkest secret and it feels good.
By being honest about my struggles I understand that it may chase some away and potentially make it harder for me to make friends or find a relationship, but by living by the mantra "honesty is the best policy" I have comfort knowing the bonds I do form in the future, will be strong and true. As an added benefit to my enlightening those around me to my diagnosis and battle with mental illness; if there is a next time, another relapse, I will not feel compelled to hide the fact that I am experiencing the onset of symptoms, and will be more likely to seek help, to catch it early, before I fully go off the deep end. My monster of mental illness is less scary, now that I have shined the light on it.
Artistically my ambition's focus is on large scale sculpture. These large-scale builds are however too expensive for me at this time to simply build colossal recreations of my maquettes on speculation. Thus, I must seek out and apply for commission opportunities to provide funding and installation locations for me to realize my designs on a monumental level. In preparation for submitting to various requests for proposals I create detailed plans of how to build and install my creations on multiple scales, well in advance, using the valuable insight and experience I acquired in regards the planing and execution processes of the fabrication, restoration, and installation of museum quality, large and small scale sculptural works. Gaining this knowledge while working on artworks designed by the likes of Calder, Haring, and Lichtenstein to name a few, during my employment of three years at Amaral Custom Fabrications.
While I fight the battle to find ways to pay for my large-scale ambitions, I have found less costly methods to provide a productive creative outlet for myself, that may potentially help me gain funding and notoriety. Other than my series of horseshoe crabs, all of my sculptures start as small table top maquettes, mostly made of plywood and some fiberglass. Resulting from the fact that I intend on recreating these designs in multiple scales and materials, I have made it my policy that I can only fabricate these future recreations, so long as I still own or have access to the original maquette. For this reason, I list the original creations of my designs with million-dollar price tags as to deter their purchase but not to give up on the chance to catch the "white rhino" of a life changing sale that could support me and my family
With the high-ticket sale of one of my concept maquettes unlikely, I am still with the need of producing affordable and desirable product, that’s cost of creation, fits within my fabrication budget. Doing this in an effort to gain exposure for my art and designs, and with hopes possibly being able to procure sales so that I may move towards supporting myself and use any additional funding to further the scope of my artistic practice and product offerings.
I am in the practice of offering as consolation to the collector a less rare, but more affordable alternative to my one of my original maquettes. These are cost effectively fabricated in a manner that allows them to still be able to provide the experience of having one of my handmade maquettes. I call the sculptures in this format "Maquette Duplicates" or “Origin Editions.” Due to this format’s method of construction, these sculptures, have a classic, almost historic appeal. They are hand made in the same scale and out of the same type of materials as the original concept maquettes.
While I create my designs in this format, in limited editions, the reality is that; each piece of an edition, being handmade, is unique on its own right due to my own human error. These duplicates offer the collector the closest thing they can have, without a million-dollar price tag, to how my designs were first conceived.
Offering this series of editions of my designs, in this format, during this stage of my career; both fits my fabrication budget, and is symbolic of an investment made in the youth of my attempt of creation of a artistic legacy. This is accomplished by these small, mostly wooden, table top sculptures because they are nostalgic representations of how the designs of my current and future, large scale sculptures, began which is reflective of how my mission as an artist is just beginning.
I currently only produce one piece, of each design’s edition, at a time; but I am open to requested commissions or pre-fabrication purchases. So while there is a chance I will still have units in this format edition series, available to release in the later years of my career, by that time, provided I achieve my aspired artistic goals, my asking price for one of the remaining pieces of an edition will be significantly more than what the cost of a sculpture within the same edition is now as I plan to raise the price of each subsequently sold piece of a design’s edition.
By investing in the sculptures that I make in this format, this early in my career a collector will get the best price for the lowest available unit number of an edition. Due to the potential promise, based on my drive and determination, of a probable chance that the designs of these maquette duplicates will be recreated in a large, monumental scale in the future. This I predict, will only make the pieces in this origin edition, especially the lower numbered and earlier produced recreations of the designs, all the more valuable.
An additional artistic avenue I’ve taken, to provide a lower priced collectible and to serve as another outlet for creation, when I seem to have a sculptural creative block, is to create acrylic on paper mono-prints using Mylar stencils and stamps I make based on the silhouettes of my sculptures. These range in size from 15"x11" to a little larger than a postage stamp. The smallest prints I make I conceptualize packaging in small stereotypical “drug dealer dime bags” and while the monoprints in the series will be numbered on the back identifying the order in which the paintings were created using the same stamp; I intend for this collection of micro prints, to be displayed and handled, such that, this edition number is not made visible to the collector, until they have purchased the print. Using this mystery of print number and the low cost I offer these small nearly 1 3/8" by 2 1/2" prints; I hope to create a "baseball trading card" phenomenon. With luck, enticing collectors to continue to come back and purchase multiple micro-prints in different transactions, in hope that they may luck out and get a low numbered print edition at a steal of a price.
As part of my marketing process, I heavily use and post to Instagram as @Wild_Canary. The advent of this pictorial campaign I am working on, to get my work out there in front of the eyes of the world; has led to my practice of repeatedly taking photos of my sculptures, to create new content to post and to attempt to achieve the perfect photograph of each created design. In an experiment I have just begun to explore the realms of color photography, but of my 1500 posts most are monochromatic photos that liberally use light, shadow and camera angles; to create dramatic images of my sculptural designs and studio practice.
To create enough quality content for this number of posts, I must take countless more photographs than actual posts, and then curate and select the best ones that I feel are worthy of posting. This quest to maintain a relevant online presence and to capture the best-looking photos of my art work and documentation of my studio life has become an important creative outlet for me in its own right. I envision the idea of exhibiting my photographs on gallery and museum walls, alongside my mono prints and surrounding my sculptures. Forcing patrons to view my designs from the best possible angles, as well as highlighting their attention to the sculptures' silhouettes using light play, and to provide the viewers with a romantic and personal insight behind the scenes of the creation of my art.
I am looking towards the future, and I predict and am determined for it to hold great things. As I gain funding I intend on fabricating my sculptural designs in multiple scales and out of aluminum, steel, bronze, and composites.
One plan I have dreamed of, to create hype and possibly a mass market for my smaller sculptures; is to execute another sculptural graffiti campaign. This will consist of the nondestructive installation or staging of small, scale 1 recreations of my designs, inside IKEA super stores. I conceptualize using IKEA's store format of presenting their products as staged rooms that customers mill through, while collecting the pricing and identification tickets of the items they want to purchase, rather than taking the actual item they see on the store floor; to create confusion, mystery and interest surrounding my sculptural designs.
For my plan to work I must infiltrate the stores with my sculpture duplicates as well as pre-printed item tickets for the sculptures that match or resemble IKEA's real item identification tickets as close as possible. I will carefully select locations to place these sculptures and their fake item tickets, so that they appear as if they are part of the staged room and are just another product. It is my intent that some the store customers will like my designs enough, to choose to take one of my fake item tickets and try to turn them in when they get to the end of the store in an attempt to purchase the sculptures.
My ultimate purpose, desire, and hope for this project is that enough people create a hype uproar about wanting to buy my sneakily placed artworks, such that I garner the attention of IKEA's corporate offices, most specifically their product development branch. I have imagined executing this sculptural graffiti campaign, after trying numerous avenues of approaching IKEA and continually hitting a brick wall in my attempt to get a contact email to which I could propose an even larger aspiration of mine.
The true reason I am targeting IKEA in particular; is because I feel my "maquette duplicate" formatted sculptures with their recognizable but playful abstract forms, and being built primarily out of simple plywood, fit well with IKEA's aesthetic and production programs. Matching both the IKEA clean line design and taking into consideration they are the world’s largest commercial consumer of plywood.
What I wish to propose to IKEA corporate officials, is a collaboration that would help me gain worldwide exposure and help them break into the table top sculptural market, expanding on their recent previous projects of producing a controlled number of affordable, two-dimensional poster prints. Using my designs, and IKEA's supply and fabrication abilities, as well as their store and online selling platforms; I envision, mass producing and distributing my sculptural designs, at prices low enough to trigger an impulse purchase reaction within the broad consumer base. Putting my designs in countless homes across the world.
The target market placement persona for the sculptures in this mass-produced edition format, is to be a small classic looking decorative item to liven up a dorm room, studio apartment, or children's room. These greatly affordable plywood, scale 1, mass produced recreations of my designs will predicatively be fabricated using computer-controlled laser cutters or cnc routers, and assembled by machines or using standard jigs; making each sculptural print of the edition completely identical to each other.
With this fact in consideration, regardless of the number of factory mass produced recreations of my designs that are made in this format; it still shouldn't negatively affect the value of the limited edition "maquette duplicates" that I personally hand make. This is because being as such, each duplicate in the edition is individually unique due to my own human error. These subtle differences and imperfections are evidence and proof of these limited edition maquette duplicates origins reside, in my own skills as a craftsman, not just a designer.
This nondestructive, sculptural graffiti campaign at IKEA is still in the infancy of its logistical planning stages and is currently more of a fantasy of potential grandeur. It is an avenue I am considering and trying to gather up the subversive bravery needed to go forward and execute this plan.
In my future practice of my painting of monoprints, I am considering experimenting with taking the size of my prints in the opposite direction than I have currently been going. In this potential future project, I have conceptualized fashioning giant stencils and stamps using sheets of roofing rubber, and with these, create truly mammoth mono-prints.
My next move, in the world of large scale sculpture, is currently unknown. I have not received any recent commissions for work, nor do I know when the next one will come. However, I have recently had my proposal of fabricating a scale 12 recreation of my design "Windy" that would stand 11' tall,11' wide and 17' long to be temporarily installed in the Flying Horse Outdoor Sculpture Exhibit at the Pingree school in Massachusetts. USA. I have already compiled a detailed fabrication plan in addition to nearly gathering all the needed materials to construct a wood cored, fiberglass, semi-permanent rendition of this sculptural design, at this desired scale of 12, I do require some additional funding so I will be launching a crowd source funding campaign on kickstater.com within the month.
I am writing you, to reach out, make an introduction to put myself, my art, and my story on your curatorial staff's radar, in hopes of being recognized as someone to watch as a potentially compelling contributor to contemporary art, providing a refreshingly different example of style of work, than what is commonly seen and expected from artists of my background, with luck being able to break the stigmas and stereotypes that surround the idea of what schizophrenic outsider art is and can be.
While I have exhibited in a number of galleries in my area, I have struggled to find exhibition spaces that are appropriate for my art. Other than for my large-scale installations, I have yet to find a place that is a good fit.
Despite this, for me to achieve my goals of making a survival for myself and creating a legacy with my art, I must get my art out there and front of the eyes of the people. This means that I must be vigilant and turn over every stone that could be hiding an opportunity to exhibit my work. I have questions in regards to what you’re proposed contract would entail but I’m sure we could reach an agreement. Some concerns I have are regarding exclusivity arrangements and chosen shipping methods. Never the less I am excited by the prospect of expanding my arts reach into the Italian and wider European market.
While I have over forty designed maquettes, I currently only have a number of sculptures available at reasonable cost.
A few sculptures I currently have available for exhibition and sale are as follows: