What You See is What You Believe

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! 

Blueprint by Jennifer Davey

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

All Rights Reserved


  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. 

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