Slowing Down in Order to See by Jennifer Davey

Installation view of the exhibit "What You Believe is What You See" at Artworks Loveland, February 10th - March 24th, 2017

Installation view of the exhibit "What You Believe is What You See" at Artworks Loveland, February 10th - March 24th, 2017

In February and March I exhibited the show "What You Believe is What You See" at Artworks Loveland. It was such a special experience to have the exhibit up in the gallery next to my studio. I learned a lot by sitting and studying my own work everyday before going into the studio to paint. This was a rare opportunity to have such direct and easy access to my own exhibition. While studying my paintings, I learned to see connections, both subtle and overt, that I would not have noticed without slowing down and taking the approach of a student to my paintings. I came to see how the paintings were "one body," reflecting different emotional states, with me in the center. It clarified the central place the body has in my work, and that painting abstractly is a way to make visible these emotional and psychological states that constellate around our physical core. 

The second very special opportunity was to host private tours with friends, family, colleagues, and new acquaintances. I was honored to have visitors travel from Denver, Colorado Springs, and even Nebraska! During each tour, it was again a time to slow down and see the work, but this time through the eyes of others. Each tour brought new insights. A fellow artist asked what order the paintings were made, and then noted that they moved back and forth from light to dark. Another saw in the smallest painting, a window to the night sky. One visitor saw the paintings as tapestries. I found this observation incredibly rich as I grew up in fabric stores and in the sewing room with my mom. In spontaneous drips within one painting, someone saw a boat. I returned to my studio to find a postcard of a boat I had purchased for inspiration at the beginning of creating this series that almost identically mirrored the "boat" in the painting. I was inspired and surprised by the success  of hanging two sets of paintings vertically. In particular, "Joy" and "Plumbline" looked as though they had been painted together. This is just the tip of the iceberg as to observations and connections made during the show.

All of these interactions have inspired my next direction: exploring copying my own work. This was born out of a discussion at my Art and Perception panel. Joan Anderson brought up the history of copying artwork. Artists have used this technique for centuries to learn from master works. She also shared the quote "Joy is the fruit of discipline." Mulling over these ideas in the studio, I remembered an old Sufi tale I learned from a philosophy professor in college. The story is about two princes who are vying to become King. They both must throw a party for the town. The one who throws the best party will become King. The first prince orchestrates a perfect evening, with delicious food, eloquent and inspiring entertainment, all in a stunning setting. All of the guests are laughing and mingling, having the night of their life. At the end of the evening talk moves to how the second prince will ever be able to create a better night. The following week, the second prince throws his party. The guests are stunned and amazed to find everything exactly as it was the week before. Every detail, down to the last dish, is exactly as it was a week ago. The guests have another amazing time, but it is deemed better than the first party. The second prince wins because the art of re-creating something exactly took more profound awareness and skill than creating the original. With that, I began to think about copying my own work. This brought up all sorts of questions. What would be the value of studying and re-creating my own work? How close to the original would the painting need to be to be successful...or not successful? Can I master a sense of freedom through the discipline of copying? I have started working on small studies to copy the painting "Joy." It seemed the most perfect start to investigate the phrase "Joy is the fruit of discipline." I'll let you know how this experiment goes! 

Thank  you all who came to visit. I appreciate your thoughtful comments and insights. You brought the work to life. Physical art exhibitions, in real time and space, offer a unique opportunity to grow, to connect, and to nourish the most important element of our lives, our humanity.

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Stacey hangs the show. I love how even in installation there is a reference to the central vertical line. 

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"Joy"  and "Plumbline" hang together vertically for the first time.

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Mom and Dad : ) 

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Angela and Cory from the Clyfford Still Museum volunteer crew! 

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Opening night! 

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Angela, Cory and I

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My Uncle Chuck, Aunt Donna, and Mom and Dad made a very special trip up to see the show! 

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The "boat" mysteriously re-created in drips.   

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Studies for mastering the art of copying "Joy" 

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Lydia - head of the volunteers at the Clyfford Still Museum - and crew out after visiting the show! 

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Berdine and Julie, volunteers at the Clyfford Still Museum come to see the show via the Bustang! 

Why I Use Vertical Lines in My Paintings by Jennifer Davey

February 28th, 2017: 7:55 a.m.

I'm on the Bustang, taking a trip home to see my family in Colorado Springs. On the ride from Fort Collins to Denver, I have been writing this blog post. My thoughts about the use of the verticle line in painting are formal, aesthetic, philisophical. But when I transfer buses at Union Station, the last line I wrote before getting off the bus rings in my mind. "The vertical also speaks to me about the equality of all human beings and that at our core, we are all the same."  I see all different people, from commuters on their way to work, to the homeless.  There is one man in particular that grabs my attention. He is over-weight, and very tall  He is wearing a bright blue sweatshirt and is leaned back in a seat-taking up the space of two chairs. He yells out to no one in particular.  I imagine his verticle core, the same as everyone elses who is walking past. I wonder what experiences have lead him to this moment in time. As I start to see him at a core level, merely constellated with a life-time of experiences, just like everyone else in the station, I see him differently. Less fearful, more curious. I see the breakthrough that Clyfford Still made in abstraction that goes way beyond a breakthrough in painting. It is a paradigm shift in the way to view the world-from the inside out, from spirit to matter. 

The central vertical line/spine is the core energetic essence of who we are as humans. I am pulling this visual imagery forward from Clyfford Still, who in his paintings and drawings, specifically broke down exterior structures of the body.  As a young man, he drew and studied the figure intensely, creating classical beautiful figure drawings. During the depression he began threading strong emotion into his figures, creating works with exaggerated, elongated faces and hands, spare ribs and somber expresions to capture the psychological angst of the era. Next he began to strip away the outer layers of the figure, leaving the feeling that you were seeing an x-ray picture or bone fragments from an archeological dig. Finally he broke through to abstraction, leaving the other layers of the body behind, and focusing on vast emotive abstracts with a core vertical element, what he called "life lines."  As Still himself states, "the figure is behind all of my work." A wonderful way to see this progression is to view the exhibit The War Begins: Clyfford Still's Path to Abstraction on google arts and culture.

I have come to realize that the body is behind all of my abstract work as well. And that I am very deliberately pulling Still's use of the vertical forward into the 21st century. Last year I explored the elements that make up the psyche using words in my paintings as points of meditation.

This year the large stenciled words are mostly gone and I realize I have moved down a few layers-from intellectual questioning to direct experience: exploring emotional and energetic states of the body. I feel as if I am practicing reverse studies of the body. Rather than following the traditional artistic practice of observing and re-creating the human figure, I am observing and painting the internal landscape. I am looking for the still space within that encompasses and understands all parts of the self. I use the canvas as a vehicle to question, and a place to hold thoughts, emotions and experiences. As I build up layers, the painting transforms dramatically. It is this build up of layers that creates its own archeology-both hiding and revealing the past. During this process, it is the body that remains the essential element. The vertical lines in my paintings serve as an anchor. They are a reminder of the essential nature of the body to have this human experience. The body is the vehicle that allows us to experience consciousness and spiritual evolution.  The verticle line also speaks to me about paradigm shifts-viewing the world from the inside-out and that we have tremendous creative capabilities as humans to help generate and transform our world. The vertical also speaks to me about the equality of all human beings and that at our core, we are all the same.  And sometimes, it is in an everyday, unexpected transfer from one bus to another, that this truth becomes clearly evident. 

Blueprint by Jennifer Davey

Jennifer Davey, Blueprint, 2016. Oil, chalk and collage on panel, 48 x 48 inches.  

All Rights Reserved

Blueprint:

  1. a photographic print in white on a bright blue ground or blue on a white ground used especially for copying maps, mechanical drawings, and architects' plans

  2. something resembling a blueprint (as in serving as a model or providing guidance); especially :  a detailed plan or program of action <a blueprint for victory> from Merriam-Webster online

May 17, 2016: Sitting in my studio, the 4 x 4  foot black square panel staring back at me, I could almost hear the over-thought lines yelling back at me, questioning why I had destroyed the freshness and spontaneity that had appeared in a few chalk and brush marks just days before. It's a horrible moment. The moment I realize I've killed the painting. The Zen saying "first thought best thought" is gone. Now, freshness turns to struggle. The struggle of wanting what was there to still be there and knowing it will not come back. The only way to recover the painting is to make it into the next thing. But letting go of the attachment to what it was or could have been is the hardest part. This is the psychology of painting. The things they don't teach in art school. That moment after it was easy, and I expect it still to be easy. I start to think about what the painting could be, should be, could have been.  And that spells death. Until I let go of all of the would haves and should be's and risk being in the present and responding in an authentic way, the painting will be a struggle. 

As I sat, struggling with myself, in that creaking wooden studio chair, determination began to over-take despair. It suddenly became obvious that the marks and collages felt as though they were floating in black space, each in their own individual worlds. I felt like a lot of parts in my life were also in these different little floating compartments. And how that made no sense. Everything was connected. Even things that seemed to have no relation to one another, were ultimately connected in some way. That insight was my entry back into the painting. Suddenly chalk lines began to fill the space. It was as if an electric grid was illuminating the panel. This painting became the anchor for the exhibit "What You Believe is What You See."  I realized that this "blueprint" that had appeared reflected an underlying energetic blueprint in me. It also woke me up to the realization that I have been making work centered around the body since the time I was in art school. This insight was my path back into the painting, but also my path into the direction of the next body of work, and my continued interest in understanding the human operating system, and how to integrate all of these different parts of myself into a thriving whole. 

Thank You Clyfford Still and the Clyfford Still Museum by Jennifer Davey

Five years ago this month, The Clyfford Still Museum opened its doors to Denver, re-introducing this significant but hidden artist to Denver and the world.  I had no idea how profoundly this museum and this painter would influence my artistic life.

I’ll never forget pulling open those heavy, vault-like front doors on opening day. It felt like entering King Tut’s tomb. Then, walking up the stairs to be surrounded by the quiet space that enveloped Still’s big, bold, vivid canvases.  The feeling was magical and awe-inspiring. The amazing thing is that, five years later, I still feel the same way.

That first year, I participated in every program I could, continually being fed by the intelligent lectures and innovative programming that began to unfold Still’s story to the modern public. I then began to volunteer. I first started by working in the galleries and at events, meeting people from all over the world that were as inspired as I was by this world-class museum. Now, I spend my time volunteering behind the scenes, having the privilege of seeing every piece of work, albeit digitally, that Still ever made, while I help complete a paper inventory of Still’s work.  My initial awe has grown into deep and profound appreciation for the vision that both Clyfford Still and the Clyfford Still Museum have brought to Denver and the world.  I have been able to soak in the life and artwork of Clyfford Still over these five years. As an artist, it has been invaluable to see his evolution as an artist. I have learned so much.

1. I have learned the power of work. I see first hand the value of creating a steady, consistent, and prolific body of work. Still made paintings and drawings from the time he was a teenager to his death, and did not stop during some of the most difficult times in American history-the Great Depression and World War II. In fact, he used these moments to fuel his investigations towards abstraction.

2. I learned the power of approaching art as a scientist. Still made it his life’s work to break through the barriers of the picture plane and the history of art in order to create a new language to express a new age. His mission moved beyond creating pleasing pictures. He created a revolution of the spirit.

3. I learned the importance of playing the long game. Still came to see every painting or drawing he made as part of an entire body. He saw that his work was more valuable when seen as a whole. This view ultimately led him to write his now famous will-explicitly gifting his work (95% of which was still in his possession at the time of his death) to an American city willing to house and display his work in perpetuity for the public to view and study. Because he understood the long view, he was able to step back and make difficult decisions during his lifetime that guarded his work, honored his creative voice, and laid the ground-work for the creation of the Clyfford Still Museum, ensuring future generations to learn from what he created. 

4. I learned the power of being in charge of your own artistic career, even if it means going against expectations or short-term recognition. Still is probably most known for his decision to leave the art world in the early 1950s as every other Abstract Expressionist painter was growing in their fame and recognition. He understood how to sustain his creative life and listen to his own artistic voice, and consistently made decisions to protect and invest in that creative voice.

5. I learned the power and importance of a well-run institution. The Clyfford Still Museum, with Dean Sobel at the helm, has run the museum with leadership, grace, and a desire to connect with the public in an authentic and inspiring way. This has allowed me to learn and grow as a person and a painter. It has been a joy to be involved from day one with such an outstanding institution.

Thank you, Clyfford Still and the Clyfford Still Museum!  You have changed my life.

The Clyfford Still Museum continues to surprise and delight. They have a full line-up of FREE programming Friday, November 18th through Sunday, November 20th, 2016 to celebrate these five years. All are welcome.

I highly encourage you to visit or become more involved with this world-class museum. 

From the Inside Out by Jennifer Davey

Joy 2016. Oil, chalk and collage on panel, 48 x 48 in.  Jennifer Davey all rights reserved

I was speaking with a friend this morning over coffee. I am always working to speak clearly about why I am an abstract painter. There were two statements that just came out of my mouth, and I realized, this is what I am on about. The first is what I would name a guiding foundational principle, I work from the inside out. What I mean by that is when a problem arises, I look to my internal life to find a solution. If I was going to carry a large spinning sign, dancing on the corner, this is what I would say - LOOK INSIDE. This is not revelatory information. All sorts of wise people over thousands of years have said this, but what came next is what put the pieces together for me.

When I look over the course and development of art in the West, I see a shift from looking at and describing the world out there to moving to an individual center that radiates out and is intimately connected to all of life. We've moved from the Renaissance depiction of beautifully articulated three-dimensional space out there, to abstract horizonless, all-encompassing, feeling centered space in here. This is a huge shift. And it is this idea of navigating from the inside out that inspired these new paintings and the title of the show "What You Believe is What You See." Biologically, psychologically, genetically, and energetically what is stored inside as memories, experiences and thoughts creates and forms the lens with which we see the outside world. We may think that it is the outside we are looking at, but what we see is based on our beliefs on the inside.

And what if you want to change what you see? You need a way to understand what it is that you see.  This is where the making of art comes in. As a creator of abstract paintings, a painting is a means for me to explore this inner landscape, the contours, curves, blocks, mysteries, of this invisible world. It makes the invisible visible. It provides a means to chart terrain that feels unknown, unconscious. It marks the passages of time and for me provides a horizon line in a world that feels as if it is free falling into the future. This is a very individual and personal path, but this very personal knowledge is also universal as we all have the same operating systems as humans. This is why I love thinking about abstract art in the context of a bigger lens - a shift in awakening of humanity. It is the same kind of shift as when we figured out the earth rotated around the sun rather than the sun rotating around the earth. Now this all sounds very dramatic, and in a big way I suppose it is. But it also is the reality that it takes a long time to process and adapt to this shift in perspective. Abstract art is merely one of the arrows, pointing the way.  

What You Believe is What You See | September 2nd - 30th 2016

Artist Reception Friday September 16th 6 - 10 pm | Artist talk at 7 pm

www.pointgallerydenver.com

 

Metaphor: A Meditation on the Inner Reaches of Outer Space by Jennifer Davey

Now that is a mouthful! But there is a method behind this madness. 

This is a collaborative exhibition with long time friend and painter Jennie Kiessling and myself. It opens this Friday March 11th, 2016 in the North Gallery of Artworks Loveland. It will run through April 29th. We will be exhibiting a series of paintings as well as a collection of letters inspired by the book The Inner Reaches of Outer Space by Joseph Campbell. There will be an artist's discussion at 7 p.m. Wednesday March 30th, 2016, as well as a special event at 2 p.m. Saturday April 23rd, 2016, where we will employ the popular format of The Clyfford Still Museum's One Painting at a Time, and discuss one painting of each artist for 30 minutes each. The last chapter in Campbell's book, "The Way of Art" is available here if you would like to read it in relation to the show. And now, back to the mouthful...

The Inner Reaches of Outer Space...is this a painting show about NASA and Scott Kelly's return to earth? No, however this story provides a wonderful metaphor as to why I love Joseph Campbell's book The Inner Reaches of Outer Space. Although Kelly's time in space is a literal event, it also is a wonderful metaphor for a new way of seeing our planet, a way of seeing that begun with our first images of the earth taken from the moon on Christmas eve 1968. And then the "blue marble" photo taken from space in 1972. These photos mark a radical shift in human perspective. These photographs allowed us to see ourselves. It was a profound moment of self awareness that we are a whole system, in a much larger universe. This is a concept we are still coming to terms with as a people. Literal interpretations of our old localized mythologies no longer resonate with our reality as humans on planet earth.

As an artist, these moments and realizations inspire me to ask the question, now what? How do I come to terms with this realization? What in the past is helpful? How do our perceptions need to expand? I have always been drawn to Campbell's work. He provides a map to use this rich history of human metaphor and symbol to point to a new way of being anchored in this vast spinning universe. Jennie and I used Campbell's book as inspiration for our paintings. We also wrote letters back and forth to one another in response to our readings. This process has lead us to more questions, in a wonderful and inspiring way. All of this work will be on display and we would love for you to join us in discussing the power and relevance of Joseph Campbell's work in contemporary art. 

Why contemplation matters by Jennifer Davey

This morning I read about an article in which a failing San Francisco middle school implemented a 10 minute quiet time twice a day. The results have been astounding. For just a few highlights, a school mired by fights and gun violence dropped their number of suspension by 45% in the first year of implementation. After four years the school's attendance is at 98% and the kids now even rank among the happiest in the school system.  You can read the full article here. When I read that article, a lightbulb went off. This story gives concrete evidence as to why contemplation and the inner life matter. The inner life of a human being is sacred, powerful, beautiful. Yet, in western culture, the traditional supports for this inner life-the Christian church-have gone through radical deconstruction since the late 1800s. This is not a pro or con argument about religion. It is just observation about what has happened historically to the state of the spiritual in daily Western public life. Our usual collective agreed upon spiritual anchors are gone. In the United States, our civil agreed upon anchors also seem to be fraying. To our American culture at large, this inner life has become invisible, fractured, divided. You are either Christian or atheist, scientist, non-scientist, Democrat or Republican, rural or urban, or just so filled with anxiety and frustration about your daily life that you don't care about this discussion beyond surviving. PTSD, ADHD, racism, homelessness, hunger, a heroin epidemic, gun violence, cancer, suicide, financial insecurity, deportations, terrorism...to name a few. These problems loom large and weave into the very real and painful experiences of many individuals residing within America. Our political process is as divided and fractured as our own attentions and our own hearts. And so this morning, when I read about such a simple solution to these seemingly intractable and unsolvable human tragedies that hit the youngest among our citizenry, I was moved to hear a solution centered around the simple act of giving space and time to grow the inner life. Grow your inner life in just 20 minutes a day. It sounds like an infomercial, until you look at the results. And those results don't take into consideration what a profound and radical step it is to empower young people to face and transform the most frightening problems facing their daily lives by being still. This is the power of attending to the inner life. It is our birth right, and considering the state of the planet right now, it is our radical obligation to grow this inner life, to expand our ideas of what religion and spirituality mean. The box in which God/non-God is so often squished into no longer fits. We live on a spinning planet in a vast solar system. We are now capable of connecting to each and every being on this planet and our actions effect not only our local life, but planet earth. By creating space to attend to each of our inner lives, through meditation, prayer, beauty, stillness and quiet, awareness grows. The ability to transform individual lives grows. An understanding of an individual's relation to the whole grows. Our ability to relate to one another grows. And the power of creating a space to do this in which it is not linked to any one dogmatic point of view, but allows instead for a diverse ecosystem of faiths and non-faiths to exist in the simple act of being quiet and being still for ten minutes, two times a day. This is the power of contemplation. This is the power of being still, even for only ten minutes, twice a day. 

Love by Jennifer Davey

Love 2015. Oil, chalk and collage on panel, 29 x 29 inches  Jennifer Davey all rights reserved

This 9 part blog series BOUND explores the inspiration behind the stenciled words used in my paintings for the exhibition BOUND at Point Gallery, Denver August 2015. In the series, I will share my musings on these words, what they mean to me and why I selected them to be included in these paintings: SHADOW,RATIONAL MINDCOCOONDISCERNMENTSCREENHIDDEN, BODY, LOVE, and BOUND

You are what you love and not what loves you - Kyle Cease

LOVE:

n: a feeling of strong or constant affection for a person

n: an assurance of affection

n: the object of attachment, devotion, or admiration

LOVE: A way over-stated, highly mis-understood word in Western culture. Using the word love in a painting seems risky because it instantly evokes hallmark card sweetness. Even looking up the definitions of love I realize how superficial our collective expectations of love sometimes are. The first definitions of love that appear online define love as something we get from another person. It is our "object of attachment" Yet, real love is risky, honest, awkward. It gets into the heart and mess of who you are inside. Love asks you to be more, give more, accept each and every part of yourself. Love at the Hallmark card level is light, sweet, ever on the trajectory upwards, always with a bow tied happy ending. When I looked up the etymology of love, the roots words were tied to actions not objects. From the Old English word lufu means love, affection, friendliness. Old high German liubi means joy. From Latin Libet means pleases. Lithuanian Liaupse means song of praise. These root words seem to get at the beautiful aspects of love that relfect actions that serve, actions that appreciate another, and honor the mysteries of life, whether it be in another person or in the miraculous details of everyday existence. Real love involves death and growth. Death to what you keep hidden. Death to inauthenticity. Death to fear. Death to cowardice, Death to wanting things to be simple, easy. Death to the desire for the fast track. Love is in it for the long haul and it is all about the razor edge of truth which reveals our fears but also rewards us with a generous and abundant life. 

Body by Jennifer Davey

Body, 2015. Oil, and chalk on panel, 29 x 29 in. Jennifer Davey  all rights reserved

This 9 part blog series BOUND explores the inspiration behind the stenciled words used in my paintings for the exhibition BOUND at Point Gallery, Denver August 2015. In the series, I will share my musings on these words, what they mean to me and why I selected them to be included in these paintings: SHADOW,RATIONAL MINDCOCOONDISCERNMENTSCREEN, HIDDEN, BODY, LOVE, andBOUND

What is most simple to say is that, for our hearts to be wise and free, we have to attend to the mandala of our being-which inludes body, emotions, mental states, and thought structures-and their relations with one another. Jack Kornfield

 

Body:

n. The main part of a plant or animal. The main or principle part.

v. To give material form to something abstract (a body of work)

The body is the obvious and central element to why we are here. And ironically, despite the body's very ever-present nature, I have had the hardest time writing this post. Everything I wrote felt off the mark; too esoteric, too heady, which should tell me something about my own relationship to my body. It has taken me years to become comfortable in my body. And even now, I still have twinges of uncomfortableness, not sure it is safe to fully be in my body. Why is that? Surely there were things as I was growing up that encouraged disassociation rather than connection to my body. But it is not becasue of bad childhood tales that I am not always comfortable in my body. This denigration and distrust, especially of the female body is a larger Western cultural phenomonon that has been reinforced subtly and loudly over the years, so much so that I hardly realize its truth. The Western mind has been seperate from the body and its consequences are vast. It allows for violence towards others and toward the land. It allows for violence against ourselves in the form of how we talk to ourselves. It dissasociates our inner knowledge and sophistacted response system to authorites outside of ourselves.

The other day my husband forwarded me this article written by Jack Kornfield that expressed so beautifully the path and challenges to becoming whole. Kornfield spoke of "attending to the mandala of our being." What a beautiful and inclusive phrase. And our body is the center of this mandala. It is the vehicle that allows us to experience life and attend to our emotional, physical, and spiritual development.  As I was creating paintings for this body of work BOUND, I started with the abstract and ended up in the body. As I was looking into understanding my own operating system, I contemplated my rational mind, my shadow, my reasoning capabilities for discernment, and my own screens. But the last paintings I made for this show were Body and the five senses, Taste, Touch, Smell, Hear, and See.

These paintings were inspired by an image I ran across in a book of symbols. It described the human system of consciousness as a chariot and charioteer with five forses. The chariot was the body, the charioteer our consciousness and the horses our five senses and the reigns our mind/thoughts. Such a simple metaphor that clearly illuminated the structure of the body, mind and soul. 

Sketchbook notes July 14, 2015

Sketchbook notes July 14, 2015

I created the painting Body by physically adding prints of my hands-the oldest form of human mark making. This act reinforced the truth that my body is the central mechanism to connect me to my world and creativity is what allows me to know, understand and express my experiences in the world. Such simple truths but it seems these truths get drowned out in a culture of consummerism, disassociation and pain. I then created the five sense. I felt the need to be very clear about this structure of the body and how our senses create our understanding of the world. It was a way for me to see clearly the structure of the body and contemplate the amazing system of senses we are gifted with in order to experience life. On the anniversary of September 11th, I feel it is even more relevant to remember the body as a sacred vessel, one that is to be cared for personally, and as we do so, allows us to connect with others. In order to create peace in the world, we must be in a healthy relationship with ourselves, and then with each other. This first and foremost happens through attending to our body. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hidden by Jennifer Davey

Hidden, 2015. Oil, chalk and bark on panel, 29 x 29 in. Jennifer Davey   all rights reserved

This 9 part blog series BOUND explores the inspiration behind the stenciled words used in my paintings for the exhibition BOUND at Point Gallery, Denver August 2015. In the series, I will share my musings on these words, what they mean to me and why I selected them to be included in these paintings: SHADOW,RATIONAL MINDCOCOONDISCERNMENTSCREEN, HIDDEN, BODY, LOVE, and BOUND

"What are you hiding? No one ever asks that" 

Sara Vowell

Hidden: concealed, obscure, covert.

Hide: etymology: v. Old English-hydan, to hide, conceal, preserve, hide oneself, bury a corpse.

Hidden is a very rich word. On first glance, I feel it has a negative tone. I am hiding something and that is bad. But as I consider the meaning, I find a deep richness in its many layers. I also find where it may be useful to hide. Not all things must be readily transparent and easily accessible. Sometimes knowedge is hidden from us and it provides an opportunity to dig for the treasure that is hidden beneath our intitial perceptions. Sometimes hiding can be just like the Islamic jali screen, creating a protective barrier where what is valuable is kept inside while we can still perceive and view what is going on in the outside world. Thus to hide can also be powerfully positive.  Some things need protecting so that they can be revealed at the right time in their fully formed state. Painting is like this. I hide away from public view to create. This is a vulnerable time and I need to be hidden from criticism, praise, or outside influences of others. When the painting has been formed, the body of work fully coming to fruition, then it is time to reveal. The act of painting is always a balance between what is hidden and what is revealed and this is a very good thing. It was with these ideas in mind that I created this black painting with subtly readable text. On a walk on my way to the studio this spring, I found the piece of black bark. I loved its submarine like shape. I took it to the studio and flattened it under a large brick, hoping to find a way to incorporate it into a painting. A few months later, I was working on Hidden and knew that this would be the perfect addition to the painting. I attached it to the lower right corner. Its submarine shape was a perfect metaphor-a vessel that navigates hidden to most in the mysterious and unknown landscape of the deep ocean. The gold chalk lines provided illumination and stability in this very dark space. 

 

 

Bound by Jennifer Davey

Bound, 2015. Oil, paper, and chalk on panel, Jennifer Davey  all rights reserved

Bound, 2015. Oil, paper, and chalk on panel, Jennifer Davey  all rights reserved

This 9 part blog series BOUND explores the inspiration behind the stenciled words used in my paintings for the exhibition BOUND at Point Gallery, Denver August 2015. In the series, I will share my musings on these words, what they mean to me and why I selected them to be included in these paintings: SHADOW,RATIONAL MINDCOCOONDISCERNMENTSCREENHIDDENBODY, LOVE, and BOUND

I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality...I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.-Martin Luther King, Jr.

BOUND:
1. v walk or run with leaping strides
2. n a leaping movement upwards
3. adj tied: in bonds
4. adj destined, certain, sure
5. adj determined or resolved

Today it is apt to discuss the word BOUND as I prepare for the artist's reception tonight at Point Gallery for the exhibit of the same title, Bound. I selected Bound for the title of this show because of its double meaning of being constrained and also leaping upwards. Although I have often blamed my physical world for the limits and constraints I dislike, experience has taught me that the root of these physical manifestations are often in my mind. Fear, limits, and self-judgment, all inform how I act and show up in the world, which greatly impacts how my world looks. I can tell you that my current reality is shifting and expanding by leaps and bounds. This is not just by what I have changed externally, but what I have continually changed internally, learning to release old habits of fear, self-doubt, avoidance, and hiding my true self. It is in this context that I share with you my inspirations for the exhibit Bound. And if you are in Denver tonight, please stop by Point Gallery from 6-9pm and say hi! 

Bound is descriptive of both the constriction and freedom we can feel living in this human body. I want to know how to be free, full, radiant and alive, yet am trapped also by my shadow, failings, warts and unknown aspects of myself. It is this desire to know the divine that has lead me to researching the structure of the soul and psyche. What is underneath my everyday existence? What drives my choices, my behavior? What belief structures create my world?  It is through the unexpected appearance of words in my paintings that has provided the thread for this search. I have frequently used writing in my work, though up until now, it’s meaning has remained hidden to the viewer. The writing becomes muted through layers of paint, leaving only a hint of presence. Recently, however, I have begun to use stenciled words. The process of selecting and stenciling words became a clarifying force. It acted as a meditation, defining the painting as well as my search. It allowed me to contemplate the many layers of meaning behind each word. Words are sacred. They have a lineage and ancestry that can help us understand our place in the world. I want the viewer to experience the word like the sound of a meditative bell, a call to contemplate its meaning. It is directly because of the physical, bound elements of our life, exactly as they are, that we can know the divine through awareness, attentiveness, and love of both the beautiful and the ugly.  

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nwFsC6Tiix0

 

SCREEN by Jennifer Davey

Screen, 2015. Oil on panel, 48 x 48 in.  Jennifer Davey  all rights reserved

This 9 part blog series BOUND explores the inspiration behind the stenciled words used in my paintings for the exhibition BOUND at Point Gallery, Denver August 2015. In the series, I will share my musings on these words, what they mean to me and why I selected them to be included in these paintings: SHADOW,RATIONAL MINDCOCOON, DISCERNMENT, SCREEN, HIDDEN, BODY, LOVE, and BOUND.

screen:

1. a protective or ornamental device shielding an area from heat, drafts, or view

2. Something that shelters, protects, or hides

3. a system for examining or separating into different parts

4. a flat surface onto which a picture or series of pictures is projected or reflected. 

5. the surface on which an image appears in an electric display.

My original inspiration for the painting Screen came from travels to both Southern Spain and India. Visiting the many Islamic influenced structures, and particularly the Alhambra in Grenada, I was mesmerized by the delicate jali screens. Made of repetitive Islamic geometric patterns hand cut into marble, these screens would divide space within palace walls. Often their purpose would be to allow women to look out without being seen by those on the outside. These screens created a protective veil, evoking an airy sense of mystery. Even 10 years later, I can still feel the sense of wonder I had walking inside these spaces. It was like entering an inner sanctum. It was light, spacious and delicate yet strong and protective all at the same time. It was beautiful, mysterious, and lush.  I wanted to create a painting that had that feel of holding something beautiful behind a screen or layer. 

But as I began to contemplate the word screen, I quickly came to the more relevant meaning of the word today-the screens of our many electronic devices that continuously draw us in to a digital world. They connect us to places, faces and knowledge that would be unfathomable just 50 years back. Screens have become so imbedded in our daily life it seems difficult to imagine how we existed before our ability to connect across the globe electronically. The marble screens housed in the Alhambra and the electronic touch screen of an iphone seem worlds apart.

Yet, I see a connection. The similarity between the Islamic hand-cut marble screen and a digital screen is seduction. They both seduce us into a space, creating a shield from the outside world. Sometimes it as if a invisible screen has gone up around any individual sucked into their cell phone or tablet. Their energy and attention is in this other space, a private conversation between them and the digital world. Yet in this interaction between screen and human, the connection seems fleeting and often more disconnected than connected.

This is in contrast to my experience physically walking from outside of the palace to inside the screened enclosure as my senses awakened. The experience evoked a sense of awe, and a sense of peace that was fully alive in that moment. I am not sure I have ever experienced something similar through the screens of my devices.

And yet, I just had a miraculous but different moment. At the very moment I was typing this I received a facebook message from the artist Michael Pointer with a picture of him standing in front of my painting at Point Gallery.

Michael Pointer at Point Gallery 8.14.15

Michael Pointer at Point Gallery 8.14.15

In an instant I knew he was in Denver at the gallery. We have only ever communicated via our screens as he lives in Kansas. What a small miracle it is to make this human connection via the screen! And an incredibly timely example that our life with screens are complex and multi-layered bringing amazing gifts of connection along with great challenges of disconnection. How do we balance this vast accessibilty to knoweldge, information, and people around the globe with our ability to relate to the real people and places that exist in our everyday physical life? The inspiration for the painting screen sprang from a very historical, physical source, but has flowered into an exploration of a current and everyday experience-our relationship with our screens. The word screen holds multiple meanings and hits directly on a very real challenge of living in the year 2015 with 1 in every 5 humans on the planet owning a smartphone and able to connect across the globe.  

DISCERNMENT by Jennifer Davey

This 9 part blog series BOUND explores the inspiration behind the stenciled words used in my paintings for the exhibition BOUND at Point Gallery, Denver August 2015. In the series, I will share my musings on these words, what they mean to me and why I selected them to be included in these paintings: SHADOW,RATIONAL MINDCOCOONDISCERNMENTSCREENHIDDENBODYLOVE, andBOUND.

It's not what you look at that matters, it's what you see

Henry David Thoreau

Discern: v.tr. to perceive clearly with the mind or senses

Discernement: n. good judgment or insight

Discernment: the process of sorting and sifting. Discerning is often associated with having discerning taste-related to sophistication, wealth or status, but that is not how I mean it. I mean it in a way of assessing a situation, weighing truth or error, and then making a decision. The root Latin word is DISCERNERE meaning to separate, set apart, or divide. Dis has the root meaning off or away and gets at the heart of effective discerning: detachment. Cernere means to distinguish, separate or sift. Through detachment, my ability to see clearly expands and my skills for sifting and sorting become easier. I am searching for wisdom. In a sense, discernment feels like an old-fashioned term. Today’s judgments and evaluations are made quickly, often through the screen of social media. We don’t take the time to learn and know what is going on at a deeper level. Discernment is about taking time to really understand the situation. What are the forces at play? How did something come to be? Time and re-evaluation are key components of this process. Discernment is an antidote to our 10-day news cycle, Facebook likes, and instant evaluation culture. It is a call to pause, look deeper, and understand the situation before acting or judging. 

Cocoon by Jennifer Davey

Cocoon, 2015. Oil, chalk, pencil and collage on panel, 48 x 48 in.   Jennifer Davey  all rights reserved

This 9 part blog series BOUND explores the inspiration behind the stenciled words used in my paintings for the exhibition BOUND at Point Gallery, Denver August 2015. In the series, I will share my musings on these words, what they mean to me and why I selected them to be included in these paintings: SHADOW,RATIONAL MINDCOCOONDISCERNMENTSCREENHIDDENBODYLOVE, and BOUND.

Cocoon

I decided to use the word COCOON specifically to spend time contemplating the psychological change and internal transformations that have been occuring within me. 

My new studio space (January 2015) reflects the first layer of a metaphorical cocoon. Deep in the basement of a hundred year old building, just walking down the stairs and entering my studio I feel I am in a protective cocoon. I can explore and be quiet, letting inspiration lead me in new and different directions. It creates the space for my voice to be strong and clear. I am in a space that is invisible to others eyes or judgments and it allows me to think clearly.  

The second layer of the cocoon has been a to create a psychological space where I could examine the roots of my thinking. For the enitre body of work for the exhibit BOUND, I posed the following questions to myself: What operating system was driving my actions? How did my feelings influence my decisions? What was my default navigating system? Whenever I enter my studio I spend time being quiet. I want to understand how my body, mind and spirit work. Where are they working in conjunction? Where are they arguing? This kind of questioning and examination needs a protective cocoon where I can look honestly and privately within myself to find answers. 

I initially stenciled the words COCOON vertically down the painting formerly known as Spacious. Using an older painting provided another layer of metaphorical transformation. I specifically chose vertical placement of the letters to mimic the verticality of a cocoon. The foil collage to the left reminds me of a spine or the 7 chakras. Although visually I liked the painting, it did not feel like a cocoon. I then added a layer of velum over the text. The idea was matched up with cocoon, but visually I did not like it. The idea to 'create a cocoon" was just that, an idea. It had yet to become integral to the painting. The final painting emerged after removing most but not all of the velum attached with glue and masking tape. I added a red chalk line to the right of the painting. An emerging life line, again spoke to the verticality of the human body, but this time in spirit. There are also 2 central pencil lines, creating a stable center to the painting. Everything visually about this painting is delicate, which I find interesting. I see radical trasformation that can happen quietly and delicately.

 

 

Rational Mind by Jennifer Davey

JDavey_rational_web.jpg

This 9 part blog series BOUND explores the inspiration behind the stenciled words used in my paintings for the exhibition BOUND at Point Gallery, Denver August 2015. In the series, I will share my musings on these words, what they mean to me and why I selected them to be included in these paintings: SHADOW,RATIONAL MINDCOCOONDISCERNMENTSCREENHIDDENBODYLOVE, and BOUND.

"The world we have created is a product of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking." Albert Einstein

Rational: Based on facts or reason and not on emotions or feelings. Having the ability to reason or think about things clearly

Ratio: from Latin "ratio" reckoning, numbering, calculation; business affair, proceedure.

Rational mind. As an American, with Western European ancestry, rational mind is the anchor, the trustworthy north star to truly decipher all situations and problems. I may use my intuition. I may trust my body here and there, but I assume that when faced with a major decision, it is the rational mind that I should rely upon to lead me on the correct path. It is the Western mind's default. And yet, I believe that the rational mind represents only the tip of the ice berg in terms of to understand the world and make decisions.  There is insight, intuition, dreams, gut instinct, pre-cognition, faith, compassion, biological and emotional history, and subconscious desires to name a few of the influences that guide my daily decisions. I was inspired to explore this rational world view as a counter balance to my painting  Shadow. What is the operating system I assume to be rational? What are the other ways of knowing? How do I really make decisions? Rational mind evokes a sense of clear-headedness and coolness. I imagine analyzing a situation based on its pros and cons and then making a wise and solid yes decision based on the list with the most positives.  Yet, is that actually a rational process? The strict rational mind cuts out the feeling, the heart of the matter, leaving us to analyze without feeling.

Rationalism encourages us to asses without valuing the effect on our body, the environment, or another person. We have separated ourselves from our bodies to such an extent that we are numb to the destruction and degradation of both our body and the environment. By separating the mind from the body, we have become detached from our direct experience and moreso, our focus on the rational mind has trained us to mistrust this direct experience of emotions, gut instincts or hunches that often lead us down an unkown but clear path. Compassion, relating to the heart of another, and understanding their suffering is also left out of rational decision making. Quantum physics and the energetic systems of the body calls into question that the mind is in fact in any one singular location-the brain. Each cell of our bodies holds its own mind and awareness, working in concert with the whole. As the Albert Einstein quote above points to, the world that we experience now is one we have collectively created with our thinking. If we want a different world, our thinking, what we perceive as thinking and knowing, has to change. Rational thinking is a gift but it is not meant to be the only kind of thinking, nor the master of how we lead our lives. 

My painting, Rational Mind, was an exploration of this tension or split between the rational mind and the body. When or how do you connect this divide between the rational mind and the body?

Shadow by Jennifer Davey

Shadow, 2015. Oil, chalk, and paper on canvas, 48 x 60 in.  Jennifer Davey  All Rights Reserved

Shadow, 2015. Oil, chalk, and paper on canvas, 48 x 60 in.  Jennifer Davey  All Rights Reserved

This 9 part blog series BOUND explores the inspiration behind the stenciled words used in my paintings for the exhibition BOUND at Point Gallery, Denver August 2015. In the series, I will share my musings on these words, what they mean to me and why I selected them to be included in these paintings: SHADOW,RATIONAL MINDCOCOONDISCERNMENTSCREENHIDDENBODYLOVE, and BOUND.

“Enemies are the main instigators of spiritual advancement”

His Holiness, The Dali Lama

SHADOW

n. A dark shape that appears on a surface when someone or something moves between the surface and a source of light.

n. A reflected image

n. An imperfect or faint representation.

v. to secretly follow or trail

v. to follow and watch someone doing a job in order to learn how to do the job yourself.

from Merriam Webster online

I start this series of writings by exploring the word SHADOW. It is one of the first paintings in which I began stenciling words directly on the surface of my work. It is appropriate to start with shadow because it feels like it matches the beginning of the creative process. I have an idea and a slight hint of direction, but mostly I am working in the dark, relying on my instincts to lead the way. In this painting, I began with the idea of exploring the shadow, or unconscious in contrast to the rational, known aspects of my mind.

Shadow is such a rich word. In its most benign definition, it is the tree that provides much needed coolness in the heat. One can also shadow a mentor, learning the in’s and out’s of a job in order to become proficient. In psychological terms, it represents those parts that we reject and refuse to acknowledge within ourselves, instead projecting them out onto others. In approaching this painting, I am thinking of shadow in psychological terms. It brings to mind opening a long neglected, dilapidated shed, over-full with old, moldy, ruined items. In opening it, it is absolutely overwhelming to think of clearing it out. There may be snakes, mice, mold, pools of stagnant water, and worse.  And my first response is to leave it for another day, or better yet, another decade, or pray for fire or flood, so I don’t have to deal with it at all. This is the shadow. Sticky, humbling, over-whelming, uncomfortable. Yet, I know that there is wisdom in examining this “shed.”  In fact, I would say there is dire and present necessity to examine, investigate and integrate the shadow both individually and collectively. Denial of the shadow comes at a great cost, because the shadow has energy regardless if we honor it or not. It is violence. It is ignorance. It is hate. It is over-consumption. It is judgment. In denial of the shadow, we deny part of our actions as humans, assuming that if we do not recognize it, it must not be true.  But sometimes the shed has to be cleared out.

And in this process of clearing out, I like to refer back to the positive definitions of shadow, that it can provide much needed shade on a hot day, or that we could shadow the workings of our own mind. In doing so we can learn in intimate detail how our mind actually works, thus becoming proficient and running “us.”  In exploring my shadow, I find that those neglected and rejected parts of myself actually have a purpose. By taking time to see and to approach the situation with love, their use becomes clear. This is the heart of peace and this is the treasure that lies within exploring the shadow. 

NOW by Jennifer Davey

Life Death Life, 2105. Oil and chalk on panel, 48 x 48 in. Jennifer Davey  all rights reserved

Abstract painting is often labeled as dead, zombie-like, or irrelevant. I can see nothing further from the truth. Painting provides a physical field in which to actively transform consciouness, connect the divine with the everyday, and find lessons in how to be human in the 21st century when all collective guiding cultural myths lie in shatters around our feet. How does one stand up from the rubble of myths, old dogmatic religions, out-date ways of perceiving, and learn to live in accord with the rest of humanity as a resposible steward of planet earth?  

By scanning Facebook, of course. 

I woke up this morning, getting ready my day, filled with self-satisfaction about my art opening tonight. Friends were invited, outfit was selected. A little morning coffee, Facebook and some studio time.  What else was needed for a day already slated to be great? Then I watched Jon Stewart's reponse to the South Carolina shootings. I cried. There was so much truth in what he said. And I felt so humbled, and then driven. I know that art has incredible powers to transform. It has transformed my life completely. It brings together opposites. It allows me to talk to and come to peace with my shadow. It teaches me how to live. And yet, all that has been very personally focused. And listening to Stewart's words reminded me of what tremendous pain and violence exists in America because of racism and ignorance.  And that although art can by no means fix everything in one broad brush stroke, I can think of no other tool so deftly capable of transforming the heart of a human being. So this morning, Facebook. or more accurately, Jon Stewart, reminded me that it is my desire to do everything in my power to use art to transform hate into love, shadow into the light. It is my desire to bring myself and others into accord, learning to live in this home that is ours, planet earth, and this country that I am lucky enough to call home, America. I am very much looking forward to tonight, but more to my return to the studio to face and touch these very big problems of ignorance, hate, violence, that will not go away until we understand, love, and integrate them.  Thank you Jon Stewart for speaking truth. 

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/20/us/jon-stewart-addresses-charleston-shooting-in-his-daily-show-monologue.html

Peace Making We: The Next Evolution by Jennifer Davey

Peace Making We was inspired by a call to enter the show Incite Insight, a lively and thought-provoking national juried exhibition at The Fort Collins Lincoln Center November 21st, 2014 through Jan 3rd, 2015.  I was excited about the challenge of answering the question, how would I as an artist, incite insight in viewers? I knew how powerful it was for me to use writing in my artwork to transform myself so I decided to open this process up to the public, allowing viewers to write their responses to the questions "I create peace by..." and "I feel most alive when..." directly on a painting. Over the course of the exhibit, I was excited to see so many responses on the painting. Although a few comments were simple graffiti, most were very thoughtful and expanded my views of what peace-making is and can be.

In January, when I took the painting down from the exhibit and returned it to my studio, I didn't know exactly how I would finish it. I let it sit, leaning against the studio wall for 2 or 3 weeks before I painted. One day, I walked into the studio and just began adding paint without worrying about how it was going to turn out. As I added layers, I stumbled upon a contribution someone had made, "peace is a person." I was stopped in my painting tracks. This statement was so simple and yet so profound. I often think of peace on a global scale to be in the realm of politics, nation-states, long held grudges and histories that are entirely out of my control as well as seemingly intractable. This statement brought peace to the individual level, putting a face on it. I re-wrote the statement, keeping it clear and prominent in the the painting.

The next day I added its opposite, "war is also a person." Both peace and war are easily and quickly made into concepts, but the process of looking at both of these statements made me realize that peace and war are words to describe a multitude of individual actions that create either posivite or negative consequences for humans. I don't intend by this statement to simplify the actions that create war or peace, but at a very basic level, it was clear to me that the mental state and actions of each individual creates our histories of war and peace. Through this insight, I also realized that this project is only at the beginning. Peace is a practice, just as anything else. I am inspired to continue to expand this project and become one among many contributing on a very individual level to the peace and health of our human community. I am brainstorming now as to how I will continue this project. I will keep you posted. Until then, thank you for contributing to Peace Making We, and to my own insights. Below is Peace Making I with its companion painting, the final version of Peace Making We. It represents only the beginning of the exploration of painting, art-making and peace-making.

Peace Making I, 2014. Oil, chalk and paper on panel, 48 x 48 in.  Jennifer Davey  All rights reserved. 

Peace Making We final version. March 3rd, 2015. Oil, chalk. pencil and 144 written community contributions on panel, 48 x 48 in.  Jennifer Davey  All rights reserved. 

 

The Language of Abstraction: Still's Path of Discovery by Jennifer Davey

The War Begins: Clyfford Still's Paths to Abstraction at The Clyfford Still Museum from Oct 10th - January 18th, 2015 is an illuminating and exciting exhibit that pulls the curtain back to reveal Still's fervor and struggle to discover a new language in paint.  I was fortunate enough to gain a behind the scenes tour with David Anfam, the curator of this show and Dean Sobel, director of the Still museum.  

The show highlights Still's paintings, drawings, and sketchbooks from 1939-1944, revealing a complex constellation of events that swirled into Still's incredibly focused mind, leading him to discover an abstract, all-over, simplified visual language that would mark the shift of the art world from Paris to New York and a beginning to the lineage of a Western fully abstracted visual  language.

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