Through her art, Becky Fos celebrates New Orleans and the wildlife that inhabits the nearby swamps and bayous. She uses her palate knife to depict New Orleans’ street musicians, historical figures, prominent architecture, and the beauty that envelops her.
Her canvases depict radiant, deep-hued oysters in a rainbow of colors, too beautiful to eat, and her pelicans and alligators are adorned with crowns, celebrating their iconic status. These hallmarks capture the imaginations of collectors around the world.
Fos herself embodies—and her artwork mirrors— the profound joie de vivre that defines New Orleans. “When people see my art I hope that they experience joy and escape the reality of what they are going through and enter a technicolor world filled with all things happy,” she explains. “Sort of like in the Wizard of Oz, when Dorothy clicks her heels and she is transported into the land of Oz. There is so much sadness and hatred in the world, so I would love to be an ambassador of color for humanity to make the world a brighter, happier place.”
Fos’ path to painting was not a traditional one. She began her artistic career with a hair brush and a pair of scissors; her canvas was the hair of New Orleanians.
She picked up painting as a means of relieving stress from demanding days as a hairdresser and then later as a court reporter. “I could not afford art, but I loved art and I wanted art in my home. All my walls were white, so I went to Michaels and bought the least expensive canvas and brightest paint I could find,” she recalls. “Then I started with the grid, and just began to paint. I plugged in my own colors, created my own shades, and posted it on social media just to share the joy of what I had created. Within hours, I had requests to purchase the pieces, and my first pieces had sold.”
Fos followed her dreams and found a career she loved in search of “having it all,” as she puts it. “In 2007 my son Jude was born and I was looking for a new career with more normal hours so I could better balance my work and life schedule,” Fos tells me.
Reflecting on her artistic journey, Fos says, “Success as a hairdresser meant long hours and working on weekends. I decided to attend court reporting school and passed the first test to be a Court Reporter, but found the work to be incredibly stressful. Again, I turned to art to find peace and tranquility. In creating art from a place of joy, I found that others could feel that same joy in my pieces. I sold my Stenographer machine online and decided to use that money to pursue my dream of being an artist full time.”
Gallery owners and artists recognized Fos’ artistic skill and innate talent almost immediately. Her career began with exhibition in the incubator that had given rise to artistic greats like Terrance Osborne, Frank Relle, and Jamie Hayes—perhaps Louisiana’s best-kept artistic secret—Classic Frame and Mat, a mom and pop frame shop run by the inimitable Tony Jordan on Lafayette Street in Gretna.
At Gretna Fest, one of the many festivals that both celebrate and weave the cultural tapestry of life in Louisiana, Fos was invited to share a tent with Jordan, which is how she was first discovered by a local gallery owner who had just opened on Metairie Road. He loved her work so much that he offered her half of his gallery to exhibit her pieces.
Just two weeks later, a local artist with a prominent Royal Street gallery walked into the Metairie Road gallery and fell in love with Fos’ work, as many have since. The artist offered her half of their gallery. Within days, her pieces were selling to clients around the world, from Germany to Puerto Rico and beyond, and were far eclipsing the other established artists in the gallery.
After just six months, Fos was recruited by Sutton Galleries who offered her a more favorable representation, and she was with them for just over a year before she decided to invest in opening her own gallery, Gallery B. Fos on Magazine Street. And the rest, as they say, is history.
The passion and joy in Fos’ art are visceral and palpable; it is difficult to be sad in the presence of her work. “I love every color, and I want to make sure that every color is represented in every single painting I create. I have never withheld color from any painting,” Fos says.
It is this, her seemingly innate ability to translate unfiltered happiness onto her canvas, that resonates with her collectors around the world.
Locals and tourists alike are drawn in by the tantalizing colors that await them in Fos’ Garden District gallery. But collectors’ walls and those of her gallery aren’t the only places you will find her work.
Recognizing her ability to depict and thus create joy, local and national brands have commissioned her work for major ad campaigns. In conjunction with the College Football National Championship in 2020, Fos’ work was the subject of a national advertising campaign for Dr Pepper. Lululemon Athletica, Blue Cross, evamor Water, and Entergy have also sought out her talent in bringing their products to life on her canvas.
Fos’ art has brought color to the unprecedented and often dark events of 2020, and her celebrity continues to grow. An upcoming retrospective exhibit at the Norton Art Gallery was delayed by coronavirus, but that has not dampened critical praise for the artist’s work. A recent cover story by Inside New Orleans Magazine featured her artwork honoring the pandemic’s frontline heroes, most notably the striking image of the Statue of Liberty wearing a mask. Fos has garnered significant praise and acclaim, and Gallery B. Fos was recently named New Orleans’ “Best Art Gallery” (tied with the billion-dollar collection of Renaissance artwork and rare antiques at M.S. Rau) by Gambit in the Reader’s Poll for 2020.
With each passing year, Fos’ work becomes more appreciated by discerning collectors, museums, and individuals alike. Her work is distinguishable, interesting, reflective of Louisiana’s distinctive culture, and uniquely its own. Much like her artwork, the future for Becky Fos is bright.