Cézanne. Gauguin. Van Gogh.
One need not dig very deep through the canon of classic art to realize that many of the people we consider legends of the craft never had a chance to experience their due fame or wealth. Despite their enormous talent, the art-world gave ‘em no love as long as they were still breathing. High art is a bit like high school, but with the precepts of being cool taken one step further. In high school you need to be dangerous and risk your life (i.e. ride a skateboard, take drugs, jump off bridges) to be cool, but in the art world, the acquisition of coolness requires one to already be dead.
Meet Howard Fox. He’s a Canadian painter living in Israel (key word: living), and, on August 14th, merely two and a half weeks before his first art show in Toronto in thirty years, he went into cardiac arrest. At the time, he was performing at a concert (Fox plays music on the side) near his home in Pardes Hanna (a town in the Northwest of Israel), and had to leave the stage in the middle of his set because he was feeling unwell. His condition spiralled from there; he became increasingly dizzy, collapsed, and began convulsing on the sidewalk. Luckily, because of his proximity to the community event where he was performing, paramedics were nearby and rushed over to help him. The paramedics were able to shock him out of his ventricular tachycardia (a fast, abnormal heartbeat), and very literally saved his life. If he had been at home at the time and further away from the paramedics, it’s very possible that Howard would have died. He is 58 years old.
If you can’t already tell from the artwork showcased throughout the article, Howard Fox is an extraordinary painter. Although an alumni of York University’s fine arts program, Fox says that he is largely self-trained and has been painting since long before his earliest childhood memories. More than half a century of painting daily has developed into a unique, precise style of art that the painter himself has coined ‘Fiction.’ Fox’s paintings of ‘Fiction’ are often fantastical and are as detailed as the finest paintings of the Renaissance era. In fact, Fox’s work is so enormously different from anything else produced today that he often places small indicators of modernity in his pieces, such as an airplane or a fire truck, just so the viewer will believe that the art was created within the last 100 years.
Don’t get me wrong, the man can and does support his family with his art. However, I find it absolutely absurd that a painter as talented and brilliant as Howard Fox is not held to the highest esteem. Fox’s immense imagination and masterful precision are undeniable. He stands in direct contrast from the nihilistic minimalism found in most of today’s contemporary art. That type of courage, Fox’s willingness to risk his own livelihood in the pursuit of beauty and self-expression, is a quality rarely found if ever.
As a result of Fox’s heart attack, he will not be in attendance at his Toronto art show. His beautiful art, however, will be there, and, although the man’s heart is still beating, hopefully this is an opportunity for the Bourgeoisie of the Canadian art scene to smarten up and give Howard Fox his due praise. Shining a light on Fox’s masterful work will only strengthen Canadian art on the world stage, so let’s not make the same mistakes as those who came before us. We need to claim this guy while he’s still here. It’s true that Howard ain’t dead yet, but let’s hope that a near-death experience counts for something, right?
“The Tourist” by Howard Fox will be on exhibition from September 2 to October 6 at the Joseph D. Carrier Art Gallery in Toronto.