Larry Fox: Artist and owner of that giant chicken

PHOTO by luke fitz

One doesn’t really need an exact address to get to Larry Fox and his husband Rick Castro’s house. Just land somewhere in the vicinity of 22nd and N streets, and ask any person on the street for the location of Cluck, a giant chicken statue. Fox created the massive chicken that’s graced the second floor balcony of his house ArtFox for nearly a decade now. The 68-year-old artist and retired teacher took time out from a dinner party at his lively, art-filled home to discuss his creation and more with SN&R.

What led you to put the chicken out there?

It starts with the house. The house was in a fire, like 2001, and 2003, we bought the house. We didn’t get in the house until about 2007. So it’s been completely restored, and we got a preservation trust award because of the restoration. It’s also been on two or three [Sacramento] Old City Association home tours. Where the chicken came from is I have a friend who I used to work with in Fair Oaks, and she had a gallery there. She was a graphic artist, and then she opened up the Fair Oaks chicken museum. One year—I forget, probably about 2008—she told me that she was going to have an exhibit at the State Fair of stuff from her museum. I made the chicken to be part of her exhibit at the State Fair.

What inspired your decorating the chicken around the holidays?

Well, I just figured since I had the chicken, why not decorate the chicken?

How many other holidays do you dress her up for around the year?

I usually do Christmas, Thanksgiving, Valentine’s Day, Easter, then we sort of have different things going on, and Halloween, of course. This next year, I’m going to try to make a rooster costume. What’s really funny about chickens is, you probably have noticed, [hens] are not male. But it’s amazing. I know what a chicken looks like, and apparently a lot of people don’t know what chickens look like. They think a chicken could be a rooster or a turkey. I’ve had people say, “That was the most beautiful turkey I’ve ever seen.”

Are people around here mostly respectful of Cluck or does she ever get messed with?

Someone tried messing with her once, but nothing really happened. Cluck went through a blue period for awhile. In London, at Trafalgar Square, there was a blue rooster who’s 15 feet tall, and he’s no longer there because it was an 18-month exhibit. … What happened while he was still there is Cluck fell in love with him. I’ll give you this postcard. (He hands over a postcard that features Cluck.) This is a postcard that I made. So this is Cluck and this is a California stamp and then this is an English stamp. So it’s Trafalgar Square in London and California, Sacramento. She was painted blue, and then I did these postcards. We did 1,000 postcards. We were in Trafalgar Square and gave out 800 postcards.

Is there deeper meaning behind Cluck?

I don’t know. I think you can take anything and put a little bit of meaning in it. It’s sort of like, since my last name is Fox and this place is ArtFox, it’s nice having the chicken in the fox house.

Tell me a little about this house.

This is from the original newspaper: Scott Ennis built the house in 1897 for $2,112. His sister used to be a librarian at the State Capitol. He was on the board of directors at Bank of America. He had a business. You know where Fat City is in Old Sacramento? [It was in] the same building, Ennis, Brown & Co. It was a company that did produce.

When this house burned, how much restoration was required?

From the [second] floor up is pretty much all new. We’ve restored it as much as we could, as original to the house. It’s been kind of fun trying to keep it going. I’m an artist. Most of the paintings in here are mine, and it’s been on tours and Second Saturdays.

Do you imagine that Cluck will be the first line in your obituary?

Probably. Everyone I’ve talked with, we’re always coming to people to who I say, “Do you know the house with the chicken?” and that’s what they remember. Everyone in the neighborhood says, “We live next door to the chicken” or “We lived across the street from the chicken.” Everyone knows where the chicken is.