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. 

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 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, 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


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: 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.


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.



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


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.

Truth and Illusion in Painting by Jennifer Davey

Jan Vermeer,  Woman Holding a Balance , c. 1664, 15 x 16 3/4 in.  National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.

Jan Vermeer, Woman Holding a Balance, c. 1664, 15 x 16 3/4 in.  National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.

I have been studying the painting Woman Holding a Balance, c. 1664 by Jan Vermeer.  At a mere 15 x 16 3/4 in., this painting packs a punch.  I am currently working on a series of paintings exploring perception and the veils that often obscure my seeing.  As a part of this research, I am investigating the inner compass and our conscience.  I immediately thought to look at this stunning Vermeer painting as an expression of this inner conscience.  It holds an exquisite spiritual and pictoral balance.  At first glance, the woman is weighing her family gold.  However the painting is rich with religious symbolism that speaks of this inner center and spiritual balance that any human has the potential to experience.  Her mere presence speaks of silent serenity.  She is dressed in a simple white veil and a blue coat, reminiscent of the colors and images so often used to depict Mary.  The painting is dark and quiet, save one subtle beam of light from a curtained window that shines down on her pregnant belly, alluding to the idea of the annunciation.  Both also are in a yellow gold, which immediately makes me think of golden light/Christ consciousness.  Above her is a picture of a version of The Last judgment, where the picture reflects the souls of the damned, in flat monochoromatic, chaos as a back drop to this quietly alive woman.  The jewlels on the table, pearls and gold, are mere daubs of light, metaphorical reflecting the jewels of the spirit along with depicting their physical value.  The balance itself is also so delicate it almost dissapears.  She gracefully and steadyliy holds this balance and the viewer is reminded of the similar weighing going on behind her.  

There is also a wonderful interplay of light between dark and light, which seems almost perfectly divided into four squares with the woman's hand holding the center point in the painting.  It seems the more I look, the more I see.  I have begun to draw this image and although I have much to learn, I am always amazed at what copying a drawing will teach you.  I'm excited to see how this painting will influence my own painting.  This painting creates a powerful, illusional space, one that you feel you could walk into.  And yet, through this illusion, Vermeer points to eternal truths.  This is why I love painting!  

Beckett, Sister Wendy, The Story of Painting.  London; Dorling Kindersley, 1994. Book.

Transforming Violence through Art by Jennifer Davey

Peace-making 1, 2014. Oil, collage and chalk on panel, 48 x 48in.  Jennifer Davey-all rights reserved

I have been impacted deeply by recent violent events internationally, nationally, and locally.  Personally, those that know local artist Keith Jentzsch have been saddened and dumb-founded by the brutal attack and subsequent injuries he has suffered for a simple act of asking neighbors to stop shooting off fireworks late in the night.  My heart is heavy as I hope for Keith’s full recovery of his creative, intelligent mind. 

Watching and listening to events in Ferguson, Missouri and seeing the use of military equipment that is now standard issue for police officers nationwide, makes me question much of our direction in the United States.  Why is violence so embedded in our culture?  I wonder when will we mature as a nation.  I wonder how we can truly heal racial divisions and evolve into an authentic and peaceful democracy.  

On the international scene, there is constant news of violence in Iraq, Syria, Russia and the Ukraine, Gaza and Israel.  How does one respond to such violence in all spheres of our world?    

I remember how art transformed violence in my own life.  Art has the powerful ability to transform perceptions.   Altering our perceptions evolves our ability to respond and act as mature human beings in accord with a very inter-connected 21st century.   

Keith’s attack brought back a flood of memories and emotions related to our friend’s murder in 1999.  This murder also took place in a quiet neighborhood in Fort Collins.  I remember distinctly seeing police tape outside of my studio window on Matthews Street.  News came in bits and pieces.  There never seemed to be enough of a story, a why, to piece together the reason for this violence.  The feelings of heightened awareness when walking down the street, no longer feeling quite safe when strangers passed, was raw again.  The wondering how in the world this could happen as well as the unsettled feelings of fear and doubt, resurfaced.  

In this remembering, I also remembered the power of art, and how it became central to my healing.  This brutal event actually made me see very clearly the purpose of art.  First, art touched me as a means of compassion and empathy.  Mark Rothko’s paintings did not talk of tragedy.  Instead, they were tragedy.  He felt the same depth of emotion and loss.  His paintings were a guidepost as to how to be human.  In that recognition of my own pain and loss, there was comfort.  And then, there was the act of creating.  Making art allowed me to heal.  I made art specifically about Mike’s murder for two years. Through this, I learned clearly art’s power to transform grief into action, into peacefulness.  

Art gives humans specific tools enabling us to understand, touch, and heal these horrific wounds created by intense violence through ignorance.  Art provides a way of transforming consciousness and it does seem that our world is in great need of transformation. 

I have been teaching drawing again, and I am recognizing that the process of learning how to see is parallel to the process of learning to create peace.  Peace is a skill that can be learned, practiced and mastered.  Drawing students learn to go from awkward, overtly symbolic shapes to masterful, beautiful lines that actually capture what the drawer sees.  This process mimics the same kind of learning needed to be peace.   It is a skill and an art to learn how to create and build rather than dismantle and destroy.

Peace is a deeply rooted sense of self AND it is active.  It is seeing what needs to be re-aligned and then working to transform relationships in every encounter, starting first with the self.   Peace in the 21st century also relates to drawing and art-making in the 21st century. European Western perspective has changed.  No longer is the accepted cannon a single point perspective representing the Christian faith.  It has expanded.  It also includes inner-perspective and aerial perspective, alongside multiple faiths and ways of being. We see from the inside out.  Western artists pointed to this internal understanding and landscape shift beginning in the late 1800s. Western psychologists such as Carl Jung, William James, and the great mythologist Joseph Campbell recognized this internal landscape as our true home.  Quantum physics confirms that what we see in the outer world is directly and intricately linked to our inner state.  It is clear that when making changes, starting from the inside out provides powerful results. 

Our perspective has also changed in that we can now see from above, both from an airplane and from outer space.  This has given us a new horizon line, or in fact, taken away the horizon line.  There are not borders of planet earth from space.  Earth is a singular whole, connected by land, river, mountains, and oceans.  Borders, divisions, and wars are human made creations and reflect mis-perceptions about the separateness of reality.  This 'us and them', border-state belief reflects a symbolic way of thinking that no longer matches up with reality.  

Changing this perception mirrors the same challenge a beginning drawer experiences in learning to see.  The beginning drawing student draws an eye as an oval with a circle and some eye-lashes.  But this is not an eye that one has observed deeply.  This is not an eye that is individual.  It is a symbol.  Perceiving enemies, perceiving borders, perceiving the necessity for war is a mis-perception that seperateness is reality.  In the 21st century we need to learn to see how we are in relation to one another.  Seeing that we are all connected radically affects how we are in relationship.  The mis-perceptions that keep us separated and in war are perceptions that need evolution.  These perceptions can be transformed in the same way that beginning drawing students learn to see. 1) By taking time to observe 2) By adjusting and re-adjusting internal perceptions to see if they match reality 3) By growing skills to be peaceful in order to respond to our fellow humans as brothers and sisters 4) To be pro-active in working to shift our own perceptions and to heal our own wounds, and then working outward to radiate peace.  I can think of no other practice more relevant for our survival.   





The Artist and Work by Jennifer

Blue paint  October, 15, 2013

Blue paint  October, 15, 2013

I have been actively working in my studio 5 days a week for almost two months now.  It has been a process of ups and downs, questioning, discovering and finding my way.  Without any expectation beyond going to the studio and painting I have felt both incredibly free and totally untethered.  In the process, I am beginning to develop my work "manual" shall I say.

What I have discovered thus far is this:

I am searching.  Looking for the edges.  Questioning and thinking my way towards a painting.  This is both exciting and  uncomfortable.  Often, I want the map before I've gone on the journey.  I would much prefer figuring things out with my head first so I can have a fine, intelligent body of work created in a smooth and effortless fashion.  I want the proof that my paintings will work.  A solid return on my investment.  Therefore, instead of painting, I "prep" for painting with my head by meditating, reading, studying, drawing, or even leaving the studio. This feeling may often be followed by an internal crisis and feeling of depression.  Not quiet the feeling I am looking for.

What I am learning from this is that I cannot lead with my head, I must lead with my heart.  And my heart is directly linked to the process of painting.

What I am trusting instead is work.  The process of picking up a brush, or pencil and starting to make marks creates its own momentum.  Suddenly....or slowly, ideas pop into my head as I work.  When I follow those ideas, I come up with the most unexpected results and these results are satisfying.  I also begin to see the thread of connection that is unfolding before me.   I know that this process is true, as I have followed it many times before.  Its funny how now, when there truly are no distractions, I create my own distraction by distrusting the process.  Ironic.  Yet, when I follow this simple rule of "just paint" I am rewarded with unexpected discoveries and a true sense of accomplishment.

Radical Sabbatical by Jennifer

Mapping 1, 36" x79", dirt and chalk on panel, 2012 Jennifer Davey

Mapping 1, 36" x79", dirt and chalk on panel, 2012 Jennifer Davey

Radical:from Late Latin radicalis "of or having roots, from Latin radix- "root"... meaning "going to the origin, essential"

Sabbatical:from Hebrew word shabbat which comes from the verb shavat meaning rest or cessation.

Sometimes something that has been a long time coming has a way of actually happening quite quickly.  Last week I gave my notice at The Cupboard AND found a secluded studio in which to begin my Radical Sabbatical.  It is not so much a sabbatical as a major life transition to be a full time painter everyday all day. Instead of clocking in at The Cupboard on a daily basis, I will be clocking in at my studio and making a lot of work.  I'm so excited I can hardly stand it!  This 'radical sabbatical' has been my secret (not so secret now) name for this transition I have been specifically planning for over the last few months.  Radical because it is going to take place during the busiest time of the year in retail, the fourth quarter, where I am usually working my hardest at selling housewares and going home to paint after.  Instead I will be painting, painting, and if someone else is interested in buying a painting, well that is just fine.  But I will be painting. And sabbatical because I have created the opportunity for a pause as I am shifting my sails.  I can focus on painting, ceasing to do other activities that distract from painting.  An opportunity to re-charge, reflect, assess, and oh, did I mention paint?

The Artist's Studio: Place or Process? by Jennifer

Jennifer Davey  

Jennifer Davey  

Due to my recent move out of my studio at the museum, my quest for a new studio space, and my upcoming participation in the Fort Collins Studio Tour with Laura Brent and Valhall Arts, I have begun to consider this basic question:

What is the meaning of the artist's studio?

A visit to provides the root meaning of the word in question.

Studio: A work room of a sculptor or painter.  First used in 1819.

This definition stems from the Italian word studio or a room for study.

Study comes from the Latin roots studium: meaning study, application, or eagerness.

It also means

the application of the mind to the acquisition of knowledge.

including being zealous in applying oneself in this acquisition of knowledge.

This definition resonates with me.  It matches my desire to delve into the art and craft of painting.  Regardless of where my studio has been or will be located in space and time, I am always on the quest for understanding and knowledge gained through the process and investigation of making art.  At the root is the quest.  A quest to uncover, to illuminate, and to understand.  The studio space is merely a container for this very active process.

As I considered this definition over-lapping onto the spaces that have been my studio laboratories, I was surprised to find this old drawing of my original "studio" in the living room of our apartment during art school.

My first 'studio' during art school, circa 1997
My first 'studio' during art school, circa 1997

It looks surpisingly similar to my current studio living room space.  I love that in  this discovery, I know both spaces allow creative investigation.  I also feel as inspired now as I was then to learn to see, understand and relate to the world in an increasingly focused and deep way.  However, there is one distinct difference between when I started art school and now.  In 1997 I was interested in capturing what I saw in order to put it into a drawing or painting.  Now, I am interested in using  the process of art making to change how I see and relate to the world.  This difference is critical when looking at what an art studio means.  It seems the object of "the artist's studio" is often confused for the activity of artistic investigation, the heart of being an artist.  Studio is a process, a study, a practice, and a state of mind.

I will be continuing this investigation of what it means to have a studio and a studio practice.

I hope to see you at my guest studio space at 916 Woodford in Old Town for The Fort Collins Studio Tour on June 22nd and 23rd from 10am -5pm.

Current "living room" studio in our 9th floor apartment
Current "living room" studio in our 9th floor apartment

Quiet by Jennifer

Veil, 48" x 48", oil and chalk on panel, 2012

Veil, 48" x 48", oil and chalk on panel, 2012

Quietby Susan Cain, is my new favorite book.  Impassioned and informed, I feel that opening the pages of this book have reminded me who I have been since birth, an introvert.  Growing up in America, I have learned many fine skills to navigate my way through an extroverted landscape where one is always encouraged to sell yourself, be gregarious, make your own way, and do, do, do.  However, Cain's eloquent descriptions of being in love with ideas, re-charging by being alone, avoiding conflict, and listening to the world around as it spins magnificently, all resonated with my inner-being.  It has clarified my resolve to become the artist I would admire.  And this does not happen in the fray and din of everyday life.  It happens alone, facing myself, each and every day, and painting, painting, painting.   To have let go of my studio turns out to be the perfect first step to begin an intense focus on my craft.

On March 1st from 6-9 p.m., I will share three paintings at Valhall Arts  created over the last year that point in this direction of quiet solitude.  A recognition just recently realized, that my soul had known sometime is time to focus.  It is time to release any outer distractions and truly get down to the work of being a painter.   I suppose it sounds kind of strange to have an exhibition to kick-off the beginnings of being a recluse but I guess its about as strange as giving up a studio to become a better painter.  Paradox...true fuel for the creative spirit.

Quiet: paintings by Jennifer Davey

Valhall Arts [201 S. College Ave, Plaza Level #2, Fort Collins, CO 80524]

March 1st-March 25th, 2013

Opening Reception

Friday March 1st 6-9 p.m.

Empty Studio by Jennifer

My now empty studio at the Fort Collins Museum of Art

My now empty studio at the Fort Collins Museum of Art

We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.

The old skin has to be shed before the new one can come.

If we fix on the old, we get stuck.

When we hang on to any form, we are in danger of putrefaction.

Hell is life drying up.

The Hoarder, the one in us that wants to keep, to hold on, must be killed.

If we are hanging on to the form now, we’re not going to have the form next.

You can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs.

Destruction before creation.

Reflections on the Art of Living, A Joseph Campbell Companion.  1991. Joseph Campbell


I have decided to move out of my studio.  I am currently working out of our apartment, on the 9th floor, over-looking the Eastern sky.  Simplicity has its luxuries.

This December I began contemplating a move so I started to really observe my studio space, rather than just inhabiting it, like the favorite sweater it had definitely become.  It is a beautiful space, but when I really looked, I realized the obvious, it is an office, not a painter’s studio.  Not that it hasn’t worked wonderfully as a painter’s studio, but when I thought about the size of work I am making and the size of the space, something didn’t fit.  It was me.   My paintings needed space to breathe, I need space to see the work side by side, I need space to grow.  But growth sometimes happens in reverse order, so prior to a large painting space, I have moved into the micro space of our apartment.  And I am thrilled.  There is an energy and excitement to change, especially when you know you are on the right track.   I am not sure how long I will be in apartment/studio space, but while I am, I am excited to study and investigate my painting ideas on a small scale. I can incubate these ideas with intensity and depth, waiting for the next space.

If you would like to contact me, please don't hesitate to send an email.

I will also be posting periodic updates as to my adventures in the micro-studio.

Happy 2013!


Still Committed by Jennifer

Clyfford Still

One year after the opening of The Clyfford Still Museum in Denver, my admiration for the artist only continues to grow.  I just returned from a class at The Clyfford Still Museum, graciously taught by the director, Dean Sobel.  It was two hours filled with the joy of soaking up the beauty and depth of Still's work.  I am astounded by the insights uncovered when I give time to just be with one of Still's paintings.   His gift to the world stretches far beyond most artists imaginations or capabilities.  This gift came about largely because of his incredible commitment to his vision and purpose in painting.  As he was gaining fame and recognition in the art world in the 1940s and 50s, he became increasingly wary of the business of art.  Seeing that continuing to show and sell his work without strong leadership on his part would lead to a diminishing of his artistic vision, he pulled back. His decision to stop showing work unless it met his stringent guidelines and criteria was a profound and bold decision to remain true to his creative spirit.  Although he did sell some paintings and showed work at a few select museums, mostly he painted alone in his Maryland barn.  At the end of his life he wrote a simple will bequeathing his entire body of work to an American city willing to house it together as a whole to be open to the public in perpetuity for exhibition and study.  Some call him arrogant for such a wish.  Seeing the museum and continuing to learn more and more about his work, I call him committed and incredibly generous.  He had the vision to understand the importance of remaining true to his artistic voice, without interference of trends, critics, gallery sales.  He also had the vision to see his lifetime of work as one entity, only understood as a whole.  Still died in 1980.  Now I stand in Denver, in front of his ever unfolding collection in 2012, in awe of a man who was able to see his artistic vision through to its completion. I highly recommend a visit to The Clyfford Still Museum, situated directly behind the Denver Art Museum.