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.


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


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


Mom and Dad : ) 


Angela and Cory from the Clyfford Still Museum volunteer crew! 


Opening night! 


Angela, Cory and I


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


The "boat" mysteriously re-created in drips.   


Studies for mastering the art of copying "Joy" 


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


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

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



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. 

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


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. 

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.

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.  



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.


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.