Saturday, November 1, 2014

Interview with Artist and Philosopher Maggie Davis

Maggie Davis next to the Wall "Beautiful Stranger" currently happening at The Goat Farm.

Who are you, what do you do and what is your background?

My MFA was in painting but drawing has always been a private practice. Mark making on slips of paper, small sketchbooks, and some times on large surfaces has been a continuous obsession. Drawing is a visceral origin: the infinite mark making language; the direct line from the breath and heartbeat. My painting practice occupies a high mental plane circling around questions of perception, assumptions we hold and the contemporary experience. I am also a writer because I love language, its precision, ambiguity and its close relation to drawing.

What is integral to your art and or art career?

Philosophical thinking anchors my work as a human being and an artist. Two years of course work in the IDSVA PhD program exposed me to the great thinkers about art, theory and criticism. My curiosity finally found a place to land where answers to questions were less important than the questions themselves. In graduate school I was accused of too much “chair time” thinking about the next move I would make in a painting. In the PhD program, reading, thinking and writing philosophy were the principle means for examining the role of art in being human. 

What themes do you pursue and what medium do you use?

I have been chewing on questions about perception, its mechanics, the way we collect data visually and how we create and interpret whole images. My paintings explore the slippage of form from one to another through the contrast of color. I want to get inside the space where we make assumptions about the world. I try to set up expectations of space within the work and then confound it by letting the space slip away to a different condition. Form, color, plane, brush marks, tonality, and process are the tools but what I am hunting for is a mirror for the world we now live in, a painted surface that gives us back our complex experience but allows us to examine it slowly. I make slow paintings about our fast world. I rely on abstraction to avoid creating nostalgic memories or metaphors.

Artist books, printmaking, drawing, painting, collage, water media, acrylic and oil are all available methods to articulate my ideas. 

Detail of recent painting by Maggie Davis
What makes you angry? What makes you happy?

The absence of truth is catastrophic to our democratic ethos. 
Searching for truth through my studio practice. Being in community.

Who or what inspires you in your work or in your life in general?

Simon Critchley’s Infinitely Demanding, Ethics of Commitment Politics of Resistance as well as Hannah Arendt’s Responsibility and Judgment.

The persistent questions: What makes us human? How does art gives us back our humanity? What does it mean to be moral? How can philosophy and art contribute to a just world? These are the questions that will make my life as an artist worth it. They comfort my soul and trump any personal recognition or material gain. 

What superpower would you want?

Art, philosophy, history and community are superpowers enough.

Who is your favorite artist/s or other person?

Depends on what I am reading or who I thinking about. Currently I am reading an examination of Heidegger’s writings
Detail of wall "Beautiful Stranger"
about sculpture. At the same time I have been thinking about how the body expresses mark making in space and how that relates to my drawing practice. Heidegger’s ideas about the body, ideas about the mark as an essential expression of being human and Lauri Stallings approach to movement as relational are stretching my thinking about drawing. In collaboration with glo’s hybrid performance exhibition gestures that will soon disappear at MOCA GA, I did an drawing installation, beautiful stranger that gave me an opportunity to push the boundaries of writing as drawing. 

What advice would you give to other artists?

Always look for places that will open you up to new possibilities. Don’t make assumptions. Don’t dismiss that which you don’t like. You are a member of a large and illustrious tribe with a long history. You don’t work in a vacuum. If your work flags consider the philosophers who write about art. I mentioned the ones who back me. 

Contact details

"Untitled" by Maggie Davis