An Artist Shares Her Most Striking Images of the Decade – The New York Times

On the eve of her 30th birthday, the artist Renee Cox, who at the time was enjoying a successful career as an editorial photographer for Essence magazine, began thinking about her legacy. She was pregnant with her first child, and things that had appeared important to her before now seemed less so. In my 20s, I could talk about a pair of shoes for an hour, she says. As I got older, that got harder to do. The 28-day cycle of her magazine work, too, was on her mind. Then, in 1990, a decisive moment presented itself. Cox was in New Yorks SoHo, having a drink with some industry friends at Jerrys, a favorite of the 90s fashion crowd. I said, Its amazing, Nelson Mandela has been released from prison after 27 years. The group paused and looked blankly at Cox. Then, someone at the table announced that theyd heard Donald and Ivana Trump were getting a divorce. Thats when I knew it was time for me to get out of fashion, she says.

In the years since, after earning an M.F.A. in photography from the School of Visual Arts and completing the Whitney Independent Study Program, Cox has established herself as one of the pre-eminent artists of her generation. Her photographs are both highly personal often depicting her naked body and using her own life as subject matter and occasionally controversial. When her piece Yo Mamas Last Supper (1996), a reimagining of the late-15th-century Leonardo da Vinci painting in which the artist appears, nude, as Jesus Christ, was shown at the Brooklyn Museum in 2001, it prompted then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani to call for the implementation of decency standards at New York City art institutions.

The last decade, in particular, has been a pivotal period for Coxs work. In 2011, during a bout of deep depression and fresh anxiety about her legacy, the artist experienced a moment of spiritual enlightenment while traveling in Bali which, she says, I realize sounds incredibly clichd. A new series of spontaneous self portraits, part of her The Discreet Charm of the Bougies project, followed soon after. Coming out of fashion, I was heavily involved in production. I knew what a shot was going to be two weeks in advance, says Cox. Now, I see a location, I throw on the clothes I want to have on I have no idea what the shot is going to be even 10 minutes before. Its about being present in the moment. Another recent series, called Soul Culture, for which Cox manipulates photographic portraits in Photoshop, draws on the formations and repetitions found in fractals and sacred geometry. People are tempted to treat artwork like Tinder and swipe right or left, she says. The objective with this work is to get people out of their head. Theyre not one-liners. Here, Cox shares a selection of her most memorable images, both professional and personal, from the past 10 years.

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An Artist Shares Her Most Striking Images of the Decade - The New York Times

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