I was pretty excited to find out that The Coloradoan had put the story of my friend’s murder and how it transformed my art on the front page today! It is hard to believe it has been almost twenty years since Mike’s murder. It is an honor to tell the story in the hopes of expanding compassion and understanding.
“My purpose in painting and life is to transform the root of violence caused by ignorance”
Today is a poignant day for me. It is the opening of the exhibit 5 Locals at my alma mater, Colorado State University. The work I am sharing in this show all centers around violence. It explores both the personal and public impacts violence has on our souls, our creativity, and our joy. This exhibit feels like an amazing return home as it was in art school at CSU in 1999, when a dear friend was murdered. In a recent conversation with a close friend, I realized it was a story that I rarely shared in relation to my art making, despite the fact it was the reason I understood art’s power. She helped me see that this story in fact revealed my purpose as an artist and that sharing this story was a means of honoring my friend. Violence occurs at so many different levels both in our society at large and within our individual beings. I believe this is not normal, nor is it how we were designed. In sharing this story, it is my hope that it will shine a light on violence and its terrible impact. Violence interrupts our true nature, impinging on our joy and our ability for connection and creation of a meaningful life.
5 Locals: Jennie Milner, Joe Norman, David Young, Madeline Wilson and Jennifer Davey
September 25, 2018 to November 3, 2018 | Opening Reception Sept 25 4:30-6:00 pm
Jennifer Davey: Artist Talk October 9, 2018 12:00-12:40 pm Curfman Gallery
Curfman Gallery, Lory Student Center, Colorado State University 80523
“For me, the act of making is also an act of finding something”
At the beginning of February, I had began painting on old topo maps given to me by my dear friend, who had a found a whole stack of them at a garage sale. It was fun to experiment with color and use the texture and old notations on the maps as part of the images. Then, the school shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School happened and I was overcome by the need to make something that examined who we are/who I was as an American. Who are we as a society, that it is in the realm of our consciousness and also direct repeated experience that a youth can easily access an assault weapon and then think to kill his peers in a public school?
Initially I was driven to create an outline of the United Staes as a boundary - our boundary, our skin. I next began dissecting the pre-amble to the United States Constitution as a means of reflecting on the roots of our beginnings. What are the thoughts that guide us? What is our essence? By focusing on one word a day, this historical document began to slow down in my mind, each word taking on many layers and perspectives.
This project has opened up many questions in regards to who we are as a country. The question of who I am as an American feels as personally interwoven to all that I do, and also feels so often invisible within my operating system. The sheer notion that I have the freedom and right to create and pursue happiness is at the heart of being an artist. This seems such a bold and at times decadent proposition, and one that is challenging to examine in the face of a society in which students can be killed based on another freedom, the right to bear arms. This project is only at the beginning. I am not sure what is next, but I feel driven to explore who we are as a country in the hopes of coming to a better understanding of both our deepest shadows and greatest visions.
Today I am literally and figuratively working on some old maps I received from a friend. I love the metaphor of a map that marks the terrain of the land. Over this surface, I create marks to map the interior landscape. These colors are inspired by a visit home last week in which I was able to visit some of my first abstract works from 2005. This 2005 show, Power, was made up of 5 large black paintings and 26 small pink paintings. The colors were a means for me to explore the notions of power through a feminine lense. I was curious about the nature of power as examined through intuition, instinct, destruction and creation. It’s inspiring to return to older work. I have a sense of returning home and re-visiting inspirations that still nourish and inspire me. They call me for further exploration. It’s been a rich Sunday in the studio!
Jennifer Davey 2005. all rights reserved
Jennifer Davey 2005. all rights reserved
Today I returned to the studio after the rush of the holidays. It felt so good to get back to work. Obviously the collage of work I had set up in December to highlight my studies of joy had been soaking in my mind during the Christmas rush. When I returned to the studio today, I had a vision for a large painting with deep blues and electric greens. I brought out a 48x48 panel I had been working on last year. This vision was inspired by a sense of anxiety that I woke with this morning. It seems that anxiety is a shared experience of late. I don’t have an answer for it, but left for the studio in a state of acceptance-this is what I have so I’d best learn to work with it. It’s ironic that anxiety was today’s inspiration as the study of joy has been my focus. It seems they may be close bedfellows, the anxiety acting as a block to a sense of joy. The one thing I know for sure is that at the end of today, working provides satisfaction and a sense of peace. It feels good to be back!
Work on my project studying joy
The next layer added to a 48x48 work in progress
Next layers for small studies of joy
Continuing the studies of “Joy,” today I returned to one of the first layers of the painting-a loose sketch from the doria pamphili style sculpture of Aphrodite held at the Louvre in Paris. Right now I am more curious about the ideas held in the layers found in the original painting, rather than making an exact copy of the original painting. I’m also intrigued by this classical representation of femininity. I find the more I study this painting, the more questions I have!
JOY, DESPAIR, JOY...
This project of studying the painting ‘Joy’ has proved to be both fascinating and stressful (due to my self-imposed deadline of creating these works for tomorrow night’s Artworks SQFoot Fundraiser) But mostly it has been an engaging and illuminating process and one that is not finished. Initially, I was very focused on creating replicas of the original painting. I quickly realized that creating exact replicas are almost impossible. I also knew that the paintings needed a life of their own, and forcing them to be exactly like a previous painting probably is more like a an over-bearing stage mom move than a painterly move. But, initially working to create exact replicas has proven a worthy study. It put me back in my “observational drawing mind.” This is a state of deep observation, non-judgment and continual re-assessment and adjustment until all the elements are their proper size and place. This has become a larger metaphor for me that I am working on applying in my own life. Through observation, can I notice the elements of my life that are taking up too much or not enough space? And then can I re-size them to create a life lead by joy?
As for the paintings themselves, I was satisfied with the 12 x 12 inch painting earlier this week. However, I could feel that the 24 x 24 inch painting did not have a life of its own. I knew I needed to let go of the “must be a replica” thought and paint the painting on its own terms. I dove in, made bold strokes, shook things up. It had energy, it had life! But...it wasn’t like the original painting, and so I decided to add one more thing. And completely destroyed it.
I am already past the deadline. I just destroyed any sense of life the painting had, and now I want to throw it across the studio floor. Instead of lighting it on fire, I take a walk. I try to get myself back into that “drawing” state of mind. I am able to re-enter the painting and bring it back to a different and new life. Today, I finished the painting, with hours...or ok maybe one hour not to spare, as I am already 4 days behind the deadline. But I am satisfied. And in painting as in life, joy is the fruit of discipline. I am at the beginning of this study of joy, but I might just be on to something.
If you want to see these paintings in person, join us tomorrow night (Friday Nov 3rd, 2017 from 7-9pm) at Artworks Loveland for our 2nd Annual SQFoot Fundraiser. You can view and even collect these works if your heart desires!
May you have mostly joy and a little despair to keep things in balance :)
Studio tour wrapped up this weekend. One of the best gifts from this studio tour was the number of times different visitors unintentionally reminded me about projects I had been working on but had left behind for various reasons. It was like this little whisper of inspiration each time someone said, what about...? Or tell me about this painting... One visit in particular has inspired direct action. A couple saw the painting "Joy" in my portfolio. This painting has found a home, but it sparked the conversation about my desire to create a copy of this painting. I have taken the opportunity of Artworks upcoming Square Foot fundraiser (Friday November 3rd at Artworks) to re-ignite the study of this painting. I am making a 12x12 inch and 24x24 inch study of the painting "Joy" as a means to study the form of this painting, with the ultimate goal of creating a full-size 48x48 inch re-creation of the painting. There are so many wonderful questions that arise by copying. Is the original or the copy more valuable? Can discipline and study create joy? Is spontaneity essential to the life of the painting? In the image above you can see layer two of the process. I will be working on and posting about this painting as it develops. Below is the final version of the original painting "Joy".
Joy, 2016. Oil, chalk, and collage on panel, 48 x 48 inches. Jennifer Davey
Today I added the next layer on both of these paintings. Not much to say beyond good steady progress.
Work in progress 9.10.2017
work in progress 9.10.2017
Today I didn't have much time in the studio, and I wanted to feel like I worked. Perfect opportunity to start sanding a painting! This has been on my to-do list for some time. This process of sanding ties together two ideas I really like: archeology and erasure. I am sanding down the painting Breathe. This painting was a part of the exhibit 'What You Believe is What You See' of 2016. I love transforming already completed paintings as I feel it adds to their meaning. This painting in particular has had many iterations...4 to be exact. You can see the history at the end of this post. There is something very liberating about bringing an electric sander to a finished painting. It's the feeling that the painting is once again filled with possibilities and that nothing should be allowed to become too precious. In this case, as I began sanding, I felt it was an appropriate metaphor for the evolution of the Self, As the sander took away layers of paint and collage, I remembered the moments in the studio when I had added these layers. I remembered what I was going through in that time in my life. This process is what makes me think of archeology-an unearthing of the past. I also was feeling inspired to grind down the rough edges and come to a new space of understanding about the simple and most essential qualities of the breath. I guess I can call this my sanding meditation, which is where the idea of erasure comes in. Can I recognize but also let go of these past experiences in order to feel a stronger sense of clarity and freedom? Plus, it just feels good to work. Sometimes basic labor is the best form of insight.
Before sanding... 9/5/2017
A close-up after sanding 9/5/2017
Former iterations of the painting:
I finally started these two doors that have been patiently waiting in my studio. I was inspired by reading a passage from James Hillman's book A Blue Fire, where he discusses the difference between the peaks of spirituality and the valleys of the soul, and that both are necessary in this experience of building a life as a human being. This idea rings true as I consider the state of our country as well as the experiences of the recent eclipse. All things are important when framed as spiritual work. And the darkness is not to be resisted or shunned in order to only experience the high points. The darkness is a profound teacher, that is asking to be recognized, acknowledged and released.
Eclipse Trip 2017: I had no idea a 4 day road trip to South Dakota and Wyoming, to see the tourist sights, with the end goal of viewing the Great American Eclipse, would impact me so profoundly. The first night began with a visit to Devil's Tower, with a trip during the day, as well as a return visit at night. As I sat at the base of the tower that night with silence and stars above, I was struck by how grounded and small, or actually, right-sized, I felt. My place in the universe felt both brief and miraculous. Earlier, in the visitor center, I read a passage about the different perspectives of Western religions and Native American religions. Western religions tend to be time based, viewing the world through the lense of important events in a linear history, while Native American religions tend to be place based, viewing the world through the lense of sacred places. Sitting at the foot of Devil's Tower, I could feel this profound sense of place and groundedness. It has made me curious as to how my relationship to the land would change if I viewed things through the lense of sacred place. It also has made me question how I paint, and how else I might paint. My process is steeped in the thought and tradition of the West, using time to build up layers of paint, creating a linear history, that in relation to my experience sitting at the foot of this ancient rock, felt very cerebral and disconnected to the land.
The next day, we visited Jewel Cave, just outside of Custer, South Dakota. Now, I was entering into the earth, exploring a small fraction of the massive under ground cave structure that has built up over millions of years. Rather than looking up into the vast galaxies and universes of the stars, I was going inward, into a structure that literally looked like the bowels of the earth. Again, this place felt grounded and strong, with its history standing in sharp contrast to my very brief human life. Each turn revealed a new rock formation along with tunnels leading to unknown parts of this ever-unfolding underground labyrinth. The tour guide revealed that mapping of the caves was still done by hand. Explorers use laser pointers to determine the depth of rock formations and then draw their findings using paper and pencil. This made me think about mapping in general. Especially because the cave did often look like the interior of a human, I wondered about the relationship between the microcosm and the macrocosm. Is there a way to map the interior psychology of the human, which can sometimes seem as complex, mysterious and hidden as this under ground cave?
Finally, the trip ended with the viewing of the eclipse. What an unexpectedly profound and exciting experience! We were stationed just between Lusk and Jay Em, Wyoming with a clear view of the sun and a wide open prairie and 4 distinctive buttes to frame our viewing experience. As the moon slowly crept in front of the sun, the light turned a metallic dim grey and the temperature dropped at least 20 degrees. About ten minutes before the total eclipse the sound of cicadas filled the air as they were fooled into thinking dusk was near. Then, as if someone flipped a switch, it turned dark. A ring of soft dusky pink rimmed the earth at the horizon line and the sun now appeared as a black ball surrounded by a bright ring of white. It was so shocking and inspiring I could hardly take it all in. And before I knew it, it was over. I so wanted to hit replay and make it last. But this stunning moment of awe was brief and profound. Again, I felt very small and that whatever concerns I had last week about...well, pretty much about anything...were irrelevant. Somehow I was a tiny human on this spinning planet earth, mysteriously and profoundly lucky to be alive. What an amazing experience. This whole trip has expanded my lense of life and made me more curious and inspired. It is a very short time that we are alive and there is so much to see, explore and learn. There is also so much I miss due to my daily micro-concerns. I hope to integrate what I experienced into the studio and to life, remembering to be more adventurous, curious, and grateful.