Cincy is Creative: Artist Cedric Michael Cox's murals and paintings make statements large and small

CINCINNATI - Cincinnati and the greater Tri-State region are home to people who excel in artistic and other creative disciplines. Each week, we’ll focus on a creative individual who is bringing new perspectives to our lives and enriching our cultural diversity.

Who: Cedric Michael Cox
What: Visual Artist
Where: Over-the-Rhine
Latest: “Dancing Figs”
Greatest: Avondale Pride Mural

In the art world, good things happen to those who don’t wait to be discovered. Artists who are confident in the quality of their work actively seek opportunities to get their work seen by more people.

That approach is paying off for Cincinnati painter Cedric Michael Cox (pictured in his OTR studio). So far this year, his work has been featured three venues in New York and Chicago:

  1. Skylight Gallery in Brooklyn, NY
  2. 15th Annual Salon Art Club Show at the Williamsburg Art & Historical Center in Brooklyn, NY
  3. “Black Creativity” exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago

Cox's success in gaining wider exposure can be attributed to many factors, including his hard work, engaging personality, community involvement, and the visually distinctive style he developed after earning a BFA in Painting in 1999 from the University of Cincinnati’s College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning (DAAP). While in college, he won a fellowship to study at the Glasgow School of Art in Scotland.

Cox hopes people see a real sense of joy and calmness in his work.

“My work expresses who I am, but in a way that is fun, bright, and vibrant,” says Cox. “My work is about the expression of beauty and the spirit and the passion and spirit of living.”

Locally, Cox’s work was part of the “Inspiration” show at the Kennedy Heights Arts Center through March 14.

His work is also on permanent display in the Avondale Pride Mural in Avondale Shopping Center and in the “Soul within Structure” UnMuseum installation at the Contemporary Arts Center.

Earlier in his career Cox collaborated with Cincinnati artists Antonio Adams and Bill Ross to create the Raymond Thunder-Sky Legacy mural on the side wall of Visionaries & Voices in Northside. Cox has had solo exhibits the Contemporary Arts Center, the Carnegie Visual and Performing Arts Center, the PAC Gallery, and the Aronoff Center for the Arts.

Inspired by teaching

Cox considers the Avondale Pride Mural his best work to date. Not only did the mural lead to other opportunities, it also drew him toward the use of the brighter, bolder colors that add a dreamy and playful dimension to his work. Plus, when he teaches, students relate to him more easily when they discover that he is the artist who painted “The Avondale Mural.”

Cox teaches art regularly at St. Francis Seraph School in Over-the-Rhine in the Castle Connections after-school program at Mt. Washington School. In the summer he helps the Kennedy Heights Art Center with its summer camp and other arts programming. (Pictured above: “Josiah’s Progress,” by Cedric Michael Cox, 17.5 x 22.5 inches, graphite on paper)

In January, the Ohio Department of Education honored him for his work with Mt. Washington School. In addition to encouraging students to learn art history and experiment with painting and other art forms, Cox volunteers as an academic tutor and assists in developing interdisciplinary projects that connect art with academic studies.

Cox loves sharing his art knowledge with students.

“I am a very open person. People want to know how my work is done, and I am comfortable telling them.”

Inspired by art masters

Much of Cox’s work combines elements of Cubism and deconstructivism and was inspired by art masters such as Paul Klee, Franz Marc, Lyonel Feininger, and Juan Gris.

“The old masters of art formally introduced me to a world where I have created my own visual language,” Cox said. He also was inspired by Cincinnati-based painter Brian Joiner who came to his first show and continually encouraged him to work hard and succeed.

Many of Cox’s works fall between surrealism and representational abstraction and blend his interest in urban culture and music (he plays the guitar).

“I strive to make clear in my work the similarities between a musical composition and a visual composition,” Cox said. “A change in rhythm or pitch can be compared to a shift in line, brushstroke, value, and pattern.”

It took some soul-searching to create a style that was truly his own. After experimenting a bit, “I started creating this world of architectonic, geometrically bimorphic imagery. It is abstract and surreal and expresses the rhythm and passion of what I see internally and externally.”

Cox's paintings interweave natural and man-made forms that seem to grow like plants and flowers.

He graduated from DAAP at UC in 1999 and had his first local art exhibition in 2001, while working at an electrical warehouse. After Cox and a friend started

curating and promoting exhibitions for other Cincinnati artists, he landed a job with a marketing promotions company that valued employees who knew the ins and outs of the city and were plugged into the local pop culture.

Both these work experiences taught him how to take a focused, strategic approach to managing his art career. He keeps his eyes open for opportunities to expand his exposure, and fosters good relationships with gallery personnel and people who appreciate his style.

Cox knows that the path to greater recognition starts with the quality of the art. Unless the art is the best he can make it, no amount of salesmanship will get it seen and sold. He has discovered that if you believe in yourself and your work and are willing to help others, then others will help you. (Pictured below: “Face Dances No. 2,” by Cedric Michael Cox, 24 x 48 inches, acrylic on canvas)

Connect with WCPO Contributor Eileen Fritsch on Twitter: @EileenFritsch

(Images courtesy of C.M. Cox)

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