Studio Visit: Lindsy Davis

photo courtesy of Red Arrow Gallery

Published November 20th 2023
By Bridget Curtis

Lindsy Davis’s exhibition Deconstructing Dogmatic Domesticity opens at Red Arrow Gallery November 4th. Leading up to the opening I had the opportunity to visit Davis’s studio to view her work and have a conversation about the thematic elements surrounding the upcoming exhibition. Her work is a collection of sculptures and paintings made with sustainable materials, focusing on the exploration of the theme of domesticity. In my visit to Davis’s studio, she introduced the exhibition as a narrative between pieces. Davis says that this narrative deals with the “delicate balance of tending to the metaphorical seed that is the potential for growth.” Her work appears to be a reflection of her home life, in that it reorganizes functional domestic materials into meticulously crafted art objects.

Walking through Davis's home and studio, I notice how daily life and studio practice intermix in her work space. The blurring of boundaries between living and art making seems to come as a result of the nature of the materials she uses. Her working material is supplied in part by her gardening practice, along with discarded items that she recycles. “I really wanted to understand how to be sustainable, in more ways than just art making,” Davis says. Through growing her own food and producing her own organic art materials, she creates a self-sustaining system. In her sculptural work, she uses barn wood, concrete, and other structural materials. Along with this she uses various types of grasses she grows and collects, which she then uses in craftwork such as basket weaving. A traditional craft used within domestic spaces, weaving has historically been a functional practice. In Davis’s work however, she uses it as a reference to domestic activity but removes the functionality of the craft.

Lindsy Davis, Balance:Anapanasati (Mindful Breathing), wood, fire, oil, enamel, thread, steel, grass, 92x43x8in, Courtesy of Red Arrow Gallery

Davis’s work challenges the traditional concept of domesticity and the way in which people inhabit domestic spaces shaped by their particular upbringing. Her creations highlight her need as an artist to find a balance between the home and studio. “What's more important, getting in the studio, feeding myself, or doing dishes. The balance of taking care of yourself and creating raises the question of what is taking care of yourself when making work is so integral to who you are,” Davis says.

During our interview, Davis spoke about her early practice of using figurative imagery and how that related to her use of Gestaltism as a theme within her work. Although her current work appears abstracted in form, Davis says “I would still consider the work figurative. When you work with the figure for so long it becomes embedded. When I first wanted to delve more into using art as a means to mirror myself, I asked how do I do that? At the time everyone used the figure as the most relatable thing.”

In her early artistic practice, Davis says she would create works that would use objective figural reference to speak to the nature of what she was feeling at that time. She described a piece she made in the past in which she depicted a figure curling in on itself, sucking its own extremities. To Davis, this exploration of what she called “grotesque figures” all cycled back to the question of how to be sustainable within one's own self. Over time, she expanded on her practice by exploring abstracted figurative spaces through experiments on raw canvas with black gesso. She began interpreting figurative forms within the minimal mark making.

Davis says, “I started seeing these spaces and forms happening, but they were just through the most minimal mark making. That was the brain putting pieces of the puzzle there that were visually missing. I wanted to see something, so I was going to see it.”

After researching Gestalt imagery, she felt vindicated in her belief that the human mind would fill in missing information. This German theoretical concept emphasizes the way the brain links together disjointed pieces to form a whole image. Davis says that  “learning these concepts was what got me into working with negative space, because the work became so much more metaphorical, in a figural sense. It wasn't the figure objectively, but the space the figure occupies.”

Lindsy Davis, Something About Biloxi, Spray paint, air brush, oil, latex, enamel, acrylic, charcoal, 72x60in, Courtesy of Red Arrow Gallery

Davis’s approach to painting is a multilayered process. She begins with the back of the canvas, using spray paint on the raw canvas of the piece. This way of beginning the work releases control and allows for an intuitive practice. “You don't know how heavy the bleed through is going to be, until you turn it over,” she says.  She went on to explain how she burns the end of tree branches, which she then uses as a drawing implement to draw marks on the canvas. The branches she uses place Davis at a physical distance from the canvas, thus furthering the aspect of non-control present in the painting process. Another aspect of releasing control comes from the fact that the charcoal created from the ends of this wood has a delicate and unpredictable nature.

Davis explains, “Something might break off. Burned charcoal is different from store bought charcoal because each wood has different wood grain. Vine has loose woodgrain, so it is soft, iridescent, and it breaks off easily. Or you'll have an oak which is super tight, heavy, and chunky. It takes a lot for this to break off, so you will get a dark brown mark rather than only iridescence. It is only with time that you figure these properties out.”

After this process she then goes over the canvas with a watered down gesso to emphasize the marks that begin to take shape within the work. She adds and subtracts marks through a repeated process of covering and scraping the work. The shapes she creates “combat and flow within each other, oscillating about and folding within each other,” she says. She strives for a harmony within the work that, to her, acts as a metaphor for the balance of domestic life. The work begins to be about releasing and regaining control, in the same way one does within the domestic sphere.

Come experience Lindsy Davis’s work in person at The Red Arrow Gallery. The show runs from November 4th through November 25th, 2023.

Lindsy Davis (b. 1990, Mahwah, NJ)  Lindsy Davis is an artist living and working in Nashville, TN.  After receiving her Bachelor of Fine Arts in 2014 from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Tufts University, Lindsy spent time in South Africa studying papermaking and printmaking at the University of Johannesburg.  In New York’s Hudson Valley, she studied organic farming and while working with the land Davis realized the necessity of sustainability, community, and skill sharing in her practice.  Lindsy has been included in notable group museum exhibitions with the Parthenon Museum in Nashville, TN, the Cleve Carney Museum of Art in Chicago, Illinois and with the Mint Museum in Charlotte, North Carolina.  She is featured the Soho House’s permanent collection, Four Seasons Hotel Nashville permanent collection, and several private collections throughout the United States, Europe, Canada, and South Africa. Represented in Tennessee by Red Arrow Gallery. @LindsyDavis_

Bridget Curtis is a Nashville native who graduated from Belmont University with a Bachelors of Arts in Art History. Along with Art History she studied Chinese and Painting, both practices she considers to be tools to inform her studies of modern and contemporary art. During her time at college she emphasized research of feminist philosophy and the theory of abjection with the study of those movements.