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!