Elko County artist Patty Fox has recently taken inspiration from the start of her career to reinvent her painting style, almost 40 years later.

Patty grew up in Las Vegas and majored in textile art at University of Nevada, Las Vegas in the 1970s. She then attended Utah State University for graduate school, to study under Japanese textile artist Ted Kusama. She moved to Elko in 1980 and began teaching art at the junior high and high school level. After 10 years she started teaching at Great Basin College as a part-time teacher, then moved to full-time, and eventually became the head of the college’s art department. During almost 40 years of teaching, she switched her professional focus away from textiles, toward painting—in the beginning mostly watercolor, then a gradual shift to acrylic, gouache, and eventually working in all water-based mediums, often at the same time, in the same painting. 

“Ruby Pastures” is one of Patty’s early watercolor paintings

Patty’s new work is part of the Nevada Wild Art Exhibit at the California Trail Interpretive Center in Elko.

Patty is well-known for her colorful, majestic, plein air, interpretations of the Ruby Mountains, rural Nevada, and the flora and fauna that exist in that area. Her new paintings, inspired by her textile beginnings more than 40 years ago, are a deviation to more abstract interpretations of those same subjects. The difference is most obvious when she layers symbols and patterns from her textile art into the paintings.

“Fox Tales #4 Raven Speaks,” mixed media painting, 2023

Patty said the pivot to abstraction gives her the opportunity to achieve more depth in her paintings. The depth she is talking about comes from having multiple subjects, some realistic, others abstract, along with her typical use of multiple mediums, in a single painting. 

“Fox Tales #1 Pronghorn,” mixed media painting, 2023

Patty is excited about the new direction and explains, “many of the symbols I’m using are from native and ancient cultures. They used them to communicate with each other, now I’m using them to help communicate the subject of a painting.” Cultures she is borrowing from include Celtic, Native American, and ancient cultures of Central and South America. She is also eager to share the inspiration of her new paintings, something that was always obvious in earlier, more realistic pieces. 

“Moving toward abstraction gives the opportunity to be more expressive in paintings,” she said. “If you listen to the painting, it will tell you what to paint. It lets me paint from intuition rather than ego, which is a lot more fun, and also more challenging. I’m excited for the new challenge. It opens up so many new possibilities.”

“Guard Duty”

Patty’s entire career has included many shows, sales, awards, accolades, and lasting real and abstract interpretations of rural Nevada vernacular—specifically Elko County ranches, the majestic Ruby Mountains, and the wildlife that call both of those areas home. She didn’t need to reinvent herself by looking to the past for inspiration, but we are all lucky she did. 

Patty’s new work will be part of the Nevada Wild Art Exhibit the California Trail Interpretive Center in Elko through April 30. There’s a reception today, Feb. 1, from 1-4 pm, in conjunction with the 38th annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering.

The CTIC is located eight miles west of Elko at the Hunter exit off I-80. Admission is free.

You can learn more about Patty’s work on her website

Images courtesy of Patty Fox

Posted by Catherine Wines

Catherine Wines is an architect and art enthusiast living and working in Elko. You can find her on Instagram @catherine_wines.