The door is up in the Garage and B. Shawn Cox popped in for a visit …he brought your mum.
I’m dying to ask you about your pastel cowboys and gender-bending altered-state western pieces. I will restrain myself though. You’re gonna be back as a big feature in our summer issue, Wild West, but you popped by to say hey and share your Bouffs Series. To get in the mood, I’m cranking a Boufs playlist with Patsy Cline and B-52s.
What’s that on your head?…a wig??? …Fred’s got a cheep toupee on!
Tell us about Boufs? How’d the series come about?
Bouff, short for Bouffant, began as a series of 25 8×10 ala prima oil sketch exercises. A dozen of these went up on billboards throughout Austin pre Pandemic as part of a public art project. I chose 25 senior high school yearbook pics from my parents (hs sweethearts) 1965 HS yearbook.
I made the sculpted hair the focus of the painting and color blocked the face.
These became “anonymous bouffant portraits”.
Needless to say, my future Mom was a master of the teased hair.
My work over the past few years has focused heavily on western nostalgia with a hyper masculine overtone – in retrospective resonates from my fathers perspective – he was a walking, smoking, spur wearing rodeo rancher 6’r” Marlboro man, but Bouff celebrates the other half of my genetic mix – my mother, petite 5’2” west Texas Beauty queen.
I’ve been noticing a lot of faceless art lately, which could be existential angst, but in some cases, only half the face is obscured. Artists processing the pandemic. Why are the Bouffs faceless?
The facelessness /anonymous nature is twofold: to depersonalize the painting…and to reinforce the construct that this profoundly non-utilitarian fashion trend was applied almost universally to all female heads at the time. The iconic overall look with a few variations was unifying, almost draconican.
Is it to do with nostalgia and memory?
Absolutely. My own skewed perception of “Americana” – memories reconstructed out of black and white grainy photographs. I’m cursed with profoundly selective meme roses, but blessed with the ability to generate nostalgic narratives from these old photographs.
I read in a post about a Bouffs exhibit that people were telling you how the art resonated with them personally. You must’ve heard lots of mom stories.
Tons of mom stories and curiously. they resonated to even a younger crowd, as they were reminded of grandmothers or other relatives. In the age of ongoing cell phone documentation of life, the Bouff harkens back to a pre-internet black and white world. Many comments and selections from the wall of the anonymous series …”oh, that’s so-in-so.” Each were titled Anonymous Bouffant Portrait, fka (formerly known as) Betty (real name) on page ___from the yearbook. I displayed the yearbook as well. A couple of people who purchased them bought their namesake. Folks very much enjoyed finding the reference and seeing how I characterized, interpreted and colorized the past.
When you come back, you’ll talk about your process and give career advice, because I have to know how you transitioned from Law to art….
Glad to share the wholly unplanned, oddly fortuitous means by which I’ve stumbled through multiple careers to end up painting cowboys and hair.
What’s a bigger threat to art / the artist — AI or capitalism?
While it affords the reality I live, money is the root of all evil.
Ai is a very clever tool to ape another’s product.
See the anonymous bouffs
About the Artist
Born and raised in far west Texas, B Shawn Cox ran from a ranching life gaining degrees in Architecture and Law along the way. After years of diverse business experiences and diversions, he is focused and compelled to create. His current body of work is a re-exploration and commentary of memories, understandings, and perceptions — some real, some imagined and most often adulterated. This exploration of both internal and external stories becomes visual expression of his Why and an understanding of the world as well as his place in this world.
The title of the published piece is El Roy.
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