020702-art-Art and Soul image

If an utterly gorgeous fluidity of line seems to infuse Jellyship, the roughly 12- by 16- by 16-inch statuette from Hillsboro resident Jerry Cox shown here, the artist helpfully explains the aptness of that impression.

“After much thought, I felt this one piece, which I created after visiting the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California in 2012, best represented a cross-section of my work and process,” Cox says.

“The jellyfish at the aquarium were marvelous. They would intriguingly swim in all directions. Gravity and what we call ‘up and down’ seemed not to matter. Applying a sci-fi bent – a lifetime theme of my work – the piece became a spaceship taking off or landing above an organic landform.”

To that initial explanation, Cox provides a more philosophical addendum: “The human nature aspect focuses on the idea that we as humans are split, broken, divided in our drives and actions, that we feel alien and out of place in life. We are broken and dark inside but present an attractive façade to the world. The ball represents the gifts and talents we exhibit to those around us.”

Cox then temporarily sidelines the philosophical for the physical, describing the composition of Jellyship. “The ship is made from spalted silver maple, a favorite of craft wood artists,” he says. “After a tree falls in the woods, fungus infests the grounded tree, so after a period of time, wonderful colors and patterns appear in the wood. …

“The center wood is Katalox, dark and very dense. The ball of colored cast acrylic was turned on a lathe. The base is a piece of beech tree with the bark removed to let the natural contours show.”

As noted above, a love of science fiction has informed Cox’s life for some time. In fact, the sculptor shares that in his youth, an 18-foot-long mural he painted on his bedroom walls – inspired by the late, great Frank Herbert’s classic 1965 SF novel Dune and its sequels – convinced his parents to allow him to study art in college, ultimately leading to a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree with a concentration in sculpture, drawing and watercolor.

Throughout his career, Cox relates, his sculpture has incorporated wood turnings, carvings and constructions, sometimes with other materials and so-called found objects. There, the avocational and the vocational have entwined for him for some time.

More specifically, to generate a regular stream of income soon after college, Cox began restoring jukeboxes, slot machines and arcade memorabilia, and in 1982, he started working for an antiques restorer who also built reproduction furniture.

Four years after that, Cox launched his own company, restoring antiques and building furniture. Around that time, the “furniture as art” movement grew as a craft; Cox also pursued that line of work – and continues to do so as head of the Fine Wood Division of Overland’s NewSpace Home Organization (newspace.com), overseeing the production of fine furniture and cabinetry.

About 2002, Cox started using the lathe as the primary part of his sculptural work. The work often starts on the lathe, only to be cut, carved and assembled to form new shapes, frequently with a Christian or, again, science fictional theme. Cox sculpts in a 1,600-square-foot studio situated beside his house and (handily enough for inspiration for his art) surrounded by trees.

“Simple form drives my work,” Cox notes in summation, in an artist statement. “Often, it tells a narrative about some aspect of the human condition. Incorporating sci-fi themes and Christ’s love, I often translate my cabinetmaking and furniture-making techniques into my work.”

To learn more about our featured artist, visit coxstl.com.

Metro area artists who wish to be considered for future installments of this monthly department of Ladue News should email inquiries to bhollerbach@laduenews.com with “Art and Soul” in the subject line.

Bryan A. Hollerbach serves as LN's copy editor and one of its staff writers. He loves to read, write, impersonate an amateur artist and research all things bibulous.