On the top floor of a commercial building in Georgetown is a warmly lit room containing fox sculptures and drawings. A white fox poses within a symmetrical wooden structure, sleeps on a trap, or leans against the word “truth.” The works are a part of “Fox in the Henhouse,” an immersive exhibition created by Tom Gormally.
Inspiration for an artist can come from anywhere. For Gormally, the Fox series came to be while recuperating from heart surgery at the end of 2017. He tuned in to the cable network Fox News, and was disturbed and appalled by what he saw. Watching the programming, the artist glimpsed increasing division and the rise of White nationalism.
“Fox News has done more to divide this country than anybody in the last 50 years. That and talk radio,” said Gormally. “A lot of it is fear-based.”
Fittingly, the first sculpture Gormally created in the series is “In Memoriam to a Fox.” In it, a carved wooden fox lays on top of a formation of wood. It’s part funeral pyre, part dolmen. Gormally is metaphorically burying the “fair and balanced” network that’s operating more like state-run media under the Trump presidency. One fox evolved into the next, becoming a series of sculptures that helped Gormally process the discord he witnessed. In another sculpture, a partially blindfolded fox is standing on its hind legs, left paw up, while the right paw is swearing on a stack of books with holes in them, suggesting the elusiveness of truth. “Emerging Fox” centers climate change denial. Above an artic fox is a hen raising the alarm of impending doom. Through winks and smirks, the fox hints at an ulterior motive.
Gormally approached the series as if he were a shaman dealing with a sickness within the tribe, he said.
“They made effigies. They had ceremonies. They tried to use light. So that’s where these pieces started out of,” said Gormally. “This is an outlet for me and it’s a way of not only dealing with it internally. But it’s a way to allow other people to access it but in a lighthearted way. Not in an angry way.”
Like many, Gormally has been personally affected by the toxic polarization of the body politic. It hasn’t been easy to find common ground with those he disagrees with. Instead, he tries not to focus on what sets them apart, but this is an ongoing challenge.
Gormally’s show also includes the sculpture “One If By Land (Ass Backwards)” which addresses patriotism, about which the Navy veteran has strong feelings. He’s against rigidly defined patriotism and the notion that there’s only one way to show support for America. He vividly recalls the Vietnam War era, when he attended anti-war demonstrations. The sculpture harkens back to the Revolutionary War and people fighting against power.
Each detail in Gormally’s sculptures is executed with precision and intention. The craftsmanship is impeccable. The sculptures are on individually handcrafted pedestals. He utilized a stacking method influenced by Romanian sculptor and painter Constantin Brancusi. For the white eagle in “Fox Trap II,” he turned to Michelangelo’s sculpture “Dying Slave” for inspiration.
Fogue Founder Patti Curtis is drawn to Gormally’s work because of her own appreciation for sculpture. She met Gormally after she made the transition from marketing and design executive to artist, after being laid off. She opened Fogue, an artist collective for creatives 50-years-old and older, in June of last year.
Curtis is excited to be able to give Seattle audiences a chance to see his work before it travels to the Midwest. “I think his work is provoking without being off-putting and makes people think and ponder, so they all have a real narrative to them. But you can also create your own narrative as you look at them,” said Curtis. “They’re beautifully presented and executed.”
Over four decades, Gormally has exhibited across the country and internationally. He has a BFA from Minneapolis College of Art and Design and an MFA from Wichita State University. In school, he began as a painter, but moved over time to building art with his hands, first with paintings that incorporated sculptural materials, mixing color with plaster and poured paintings. He eventually settled on natural materials as his outlet.
When the exhibition at Fogue wraps up at the end of March, it’s heading to a joint show with his wife Malayka Gormally at Blanden Memorial Art Museum in Fort Dodge, Iowa.
The subtlety of the works asks the viewer to ponder their media consumption. Gormally wants the Fox series to inspire dialogue through accessible, folk-like carvings. The remedy to saving democracy begins with the artist’s first sculpture — entomb the fox and its deceit.
WHAT: “Fox in the Hen House”
WHEN: Runs until March 31
WHERE: Fogue Studios and Gallery, 5519 Airport Way S., Seattle
Lisa Edge is a Staff Reporter covering arts, culture and equity. Have a story idea? She can be reached at lisae (at) realchangenews (dot) org. Follow Lisa on Twitter @NewsfromtheEdge
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