Wichita artist Marshall Cox hopes his show "Attack of the Hydraw" will beguile viewers just as the nine-headed Hydra of Greek mythology beguiled those who attempted to kill it.
Cox's 15-piece display of mostly acrylic, charcoal and mixed-media works is on view at Melange Jewelry through December.
Cox, 30, is largely self-taught as an artist and has been drawing since he was 4. "I was always the kid with the sketchbook," he says.
He honed much of his craft at Butler Community College, where he received an associate's degree in fine art. His works have been shown in several Wichita-area galleries, including CityArts, where he was in two juried shows.
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Painting and drawing are his main media, but he also works with charcoal and solid materials.
"I like rigidity and permanence of structure," says Cox, a metalsmith at Melange. "That's what attracts me to working with metals. The objects are a given, and it's up to the artist to pose the question of their meaning."
Cox also pursues his art through sculpture and diorama. "I enjoy the diorama because I can be more complex when exploring in two or three dimensions," he says.
Captivity is a dominant theme in his show.
"All of us are captives in some form," he says. "We are prisoners of our own minds. We are captives to society."
His dioramas command the viewer's attention with their contrasting colors and fitted shapes. In "Pondering Optimism," a group of blue figures crawl up a hill to a distant, lighted shed. Along the way, they must step over a chasm filled with bodies of the fallen. Cox asks: "Life is a journey and we always strive to get to somewhere better. But is it OK sometimes to trample on others to get there?"
In "In the Back of My Head," a large acrylic, Cox hopes to explore the depths of our psyche. An auburn-toned portrait features a man gazing grimly downward, while suspended to his left is a mask-like face. For Cox, the mask represents that shadowy character in the back of the mind.
"He's right there, out of the corner of my eye," Cox says. "He's not critical, but he's questioning. He wants something. But what is it he wants?"
Viewers will notice that color also is important to Cox. His works are heavy on cobalt blue contrasting with naphthol red light. "I like the optical qualities and how they play with your eyes — they make them vibrate," he says. "They quiver where the edge meets in a way that calls attention."
While Cox brings his own experiences to his work, ultimately he hopes viewers have their own relationship with it.
"Everyone will get something at least slightly different out of all of my pieces because we all experience life in different ways," he says. "Art is life and life is experience."
If you go
'Attack of the Hydraw'
What: Fifteen works by Wichita artist Marshall Cox
Where: Melange Jewelry, 718 W. Douglas
When: On display through December. Open 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tue.-Sat.
How much: Admission free. Several pieces for sale.