Julia Fox's New Art Show Teaches You How To Tackle Deep, Messy Friendship
Julia Fox is a lot of things, one of those New York-specific creatives who takes on projects across numerous industries. Alongside longtime friend Briana Andalore, she’s the designer behind Franziska Fox, a striking, sexy knitwear brand—fans include Kylie Jenner, Nicki Minaj, and Tinashe. She’s also a muse who’s inspired famed artists like Curtis Kulig and Merlin Bronques, and a model who posed for one of the most artful Playboy spreads since the days when the likes of Herb Ritts and Helmut Newton shot for the magazine. But as of now, Fox might be most focused on her work as a dreamy photographer and poet, whose first solo show, PTSD, is up now at Magic Gallery on Canal Street.
PTSD focuses on a recent six month-long sabbatical Fox took to the wilds of southern Louisiana, near the Gulf of Mexico. She ended up staying for six months, living in a small fishing town with a close friend, John (whom she prefers to keep as anonymous as possible). Much of PTSD revolves around their relationship; Fox told me that John was “the most important thing to me while we were down [in Louisiana] together.”
It was an all-consuming friendship, in which their worlds revolved around each other and each other only. The type of friendship where you’re so close that you’re basically in love—though John and Fox’s bond goes way beyond the romantic. It’s this beautiful thing, but it’s also messy, and the intimate photographs and poetry featured in PTSD show its ups and downs; the photos, which are raw and beautiful, are almost reminiscent of lensman Larry Clark’s legendary addiction series, “Tulsa.”
PTSD was curated by fellow downtown creative Richie Shazam. I spent the day with both Fox and Shazam, who are incredibly close. We took pictures in a church we stumbled upon on Chinatown’s Baxter Street, playing around with the idea of Madonna and child. Fox and I then talked about the show, her life in Louisiana, and the emotional highs and lows of deep friendships.
Can you tell me how you first met John, and what about him made you feel so connected to him?
I don’t know—it was the strangest thing. I was peeing with the door open and he walked by and had tears in his eyes and was almost shaking, telling me how much he loved me and that he knew I was special and all this other stuff. We had only met the day before. It seems weird, but I totally knew where he was coming from. I felt the same exact way about him! It was like we were aliens and we had finally found each other.
What made you decide to move to Louisiana with him?
I didn’t like the way his life was back home, so I basically bribed him to move. This way he could work on music. It’s incredible.
The poems you wrote to each other are very sweet, with a theme of redemption running through them. What did you want to save John from?
In addition to photographs and poetry, the show also features a “trap house” installation based on your time in Louisiana. Could you describe it?
I just wanted to recreate elements of my bedroom. I spent so much time in there with John. There is also a TV in the room, which will be playing a video on loop that John took of me. I really wanted it to feel as personal and intimate as possible, because these pictures are so personal.
“I’m too selfish and too greedy, because if I can’t have 100 percent of him, I don’t want him at all.”
How did your relationship with John change over the course of your friendship?
It was love at first sight. That’s a real thing. I loved him so much that loving him became painful. I just took anything he did so personally. For instance, if he made a [personal] decision that wasn’t in his best interest, it felt like a thousand daggers through my heart.
So, the only logical thing would have been to not be so invested in him. But I’m too selfish and too greedy because if I can’t have 100 percent of him, I don’t want him at all. It’s too painful.
What made you decide to make a book about the your experience in Louisana?
I’m not sure. It was kind of instinctual. I also realize that I’ll probably never live out something like that again. I’ll never be able to check out for six months with my favorite people and live in the middle of nowhere. And I don’t know if I’ll ever meet anyone like John again.
Why the title “PTSD” for this particular project?
PTSD was a common theme in our every day lives. We openly referenced and spoke about it, as we are all afflicted with it in some way or another. I think everyone has it to some degree, to be honest. Some have it worse than others. I thought the title was fitting, since the land was and is still recovering from the trauma of [Hurricane Katrina], and I was also somewhat recovering from some things as well.
Do you have any favorite photographers or filmmakers that you find inspiring or feel connected to?
I really like John’s photography. He took most of the pictures of me that are in the book. He really inspired me. There are plenty of photographers and filmmakers that I respect, but none that have directly inspired me. I get inspired on the spot, usually by my subject matter.
I really liked spending time with you and Richie, seeing how much you guys care about each other. Is this your first time collaborating with him? When he speaks about you his devotion is obvious, and his desire to help you is very true. True friends are hard to find. Can you describe your friendship with him?
Richie is so much more than a friend to me. He is my family. We have no boundaries whatsoever, which isn’t always a good thing. [Laughs] But it does mean that he has seen my truest self, that side of me I rarely show anyone. And I know exactly how he is feeling and what he is thinking at all times.
He’s such a force of nature, and sometimes he needs a breather—that’s where I come in to tell him to calm the fuck down. We’ve done so many projects together that I don’t know where to begin. He was my muse before he became everyone else’s! I had him first.
What’s it like to be back in New York?
It’s been good! I’ve been putting together this show, and I’m already looking forward to my next adventure—I’m going to go to LA for a month, and then come back and get started on my next endeavor!
Check out PTSD at Magic Gallery, 175 Canal Street.
All Polaroids shot exclusively for Milk by Lyz Olko. Additional photographs courtesy of Julia Fox.
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