"Painting is liquid thinking." James Elkins

"Painting is liquid thinking." James Elkins

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Burnaway review: Jim Waters

Just published review of Jim Waters exhibition at the High Museum. Lots of sparkle, lots of fugitive light and plenty to wonder about. Check it out at http://burnaway.org/jim-waters-conductor-light-high-museum/
Untitled, 2013 gold glitter, polymer resin, dye on paper

Love the way this sparkly organic form seems to grow and glow like a life form. With our eyes glued to the digital world of a smart phone or tablet we forget the microcosm in a drop of water. Waters is here to tell us about it. Exhibition runs through June 8 at the High Museum.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Julie Mehretu at the High Museum

Detail of Julie Mehretu's Mogamma (Part 2) painting at the High Museum of Art

Conversations with Contemporary Artists: Julie Mehretu
High Museum of Art

Julie will be speaking at the Alliance Theater on Monday, April 21 at 7 p.m. Mehretu is an internationally recognized artist who has been interrogating painting and its ability to respond the chaotic conditions of the contemporary world. 

In 2009 I wrote a paper while a PhD student at the Institute for Doctoral Studies in Visual Art about Mehretu and the contemporary sublime. I suggested that in her early paintings such as Stadia I and Stadia II she was posing a collision of spatial systems that mimed the clashes between social behavior represented by organic mark-making and the institutional represented by architectural drawings of structures of power. I argued that the friction between these two systems produced a third space of potentiality, where something new can emerge from the chaos.

The High Museum of Art acquired one of the paintings in a cycle called Mogamma (A Painting in Four Parts)  last spring. As a synopsis of the unpublished paper I wrote an essay for Burnaway.org that discusses these ideas in relation to the museum's acquisition of Part 2 in the cycle. The essay will be published on April 18.

Burnaway review of Mogamma (Part 2)

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Website Launch

Radient Blue 3" x3"

My website was launched yesterday. Hurrah! My dear friend Jack has been working on it for a long time, while I dawdled my way to the final launch. Jack has created a comprehensive data base that enables anyone to wander through almost 40 years of art production. The menu allows one to look at work through each year or by medium, series or concept. It is flexible and productive allowing me to create catalogs of work from the site. And folks can access my blog too. 

But enough chatter. Here it is MaggieDavisArt.com   Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Coming into Being

Educare 2003 Private collection
Halleluia! I just finished a nomination award application. It took several days of long hours to respond to questions about my work, challenges to gaining access for my work, and what I would do with 25K!  I submitted 20 images spanning 30 years of art making and explained the significance of each turning point in my work in less that 300 words. That's why it took so long.

Here's a snapshot:

Describe the nature of your work, its content and/or meaning including how it has evolved over time and what technical, cultural or other details will aid in its understanding.

            In the early 1980’s the mark became a significant aspect of my process. As content, the mark represents an affirmation of being, an awakening to wonder and a record of consciousness.  It is a persistent concept through the various investigations in my practice.
             Following a residency with Miriam Shapiro in 1983, I began a brief investigation of identity with the figure as a subject. Vigorous charcoal marks on large sheets of paper surround an anonymous female figure grappling with an inherited hierarchy.  The drawings visualized my claim to identity as an artist.(1-3) 

            In 1990 the endangered Florida Everglades renewed my interest in landscape as content. The mark articulated the infinite and lively expanse of the Everglades while a black pool and red sky suggests finitude. (4)  
            In 2000 I moved from landscape to explore a space defined only by shallow fields of color interacting with a screen of marks. Emptiness, ambiguity and spatial conjecture characterized these gestational works. (5-7) 

            By 2007 I was making large-scale paintings crowded with colors that competed for attention. (8-9) The scale and congested compositions became overwhelming so I retreated to making small works. The smaller works from 2009- enabled me to define and understand the nature of the space I was seeking. (10-13)

            The new paintings trace the relational aspects of abstraction both across the surface and within a deeper space. Each painting contains a set of relationship that interact on a ground that advances or retreats in relation to the brush marks. I work to subvert expectations in a process that allows for a fluctuating reading of what I call an abstract narrative. The relational aspects function as a coming into being. (14-20)

Now the wait begins. Announcements in June.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Abstract Narrative

Remnant Series 2009 o/c 14" x 11"

I enrolled in the IGNITE course at C4 Atlanta so I am starting to think about my role as an entrepreneur   and an artist. I love the studio and have buried myself there for the past several years. Now it's time to get out and find out what it is I do, why I do it and how it connects to the larger world. So here is what I have discovered so far:

What do you do or make?

I make abstract paintings that combine the allure of color with an edginess expressed through the tension between the painted mark and its environment. The paintings explore the relationships between presence and absence, figure and ground, interruption and continuance and are suggestive of an abstract narrative.

What is the purpose of your work?

I want my work to change peoples’ state of mind. 
I want  my work to be a signature brand.           

Where do you see yourself in the future?

My work will be seen in regional and national venues.
My paintings will become a brand.
Collectors will buy my work.
My work will be included in public art spaces.

What do you stand for?
I believe art can be both beautiful and edgy.
I believe art can change peoples’ state of mind.
My work is beautiful, edgy and can change peoples’ state of mind.
Art can be smart!
What value does your art offer?

My work proposes a new approach to painting by creating abstract narratives that address contemporary issues such as fragmentation and isolation,  With a highly skilled and intentional approach to painting technology, these works offer properties that are visually alluring yet challenge the viewer’s expectations of what constitutes painting.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Size of the Frame Doesn't Matter

Homage to Derrida 2013

This is the end of receiving prompts to blog about, not that I have been very good about being focused on each prompt. But the experience has helped me reach something I was looking for, namely a focus to my own reasons for blogging. This seems to be the right place for speculating about things, for ruminating, for turning ideas over to find something new to think about. So, its been very successful from that standpoint. I goes the next thing is to expand my arena, find folks who might think alike or unalike about art, philosophy and the written word.

I plan to continue less daily blogging practice but just enough to annoy my followers sporadically.
More importantly it is a great way to get my thinking out of my head and into space, even if the boundaries are only me.

Friday, March 14, 2014

John Ruskin's Drawing Lesson

I have been reading Alain De Botton's The Art of Travel, a delightful book that investigates the mercurial attitudes travelers bring to their experience. One of the segments is about John Ruskin, an 19th century artist and writer who was one of the earliest proponents of the benefits of drawing as an educational tool. He recommended that EVERYONE should be required to draw! I am very fond of Mr. Ruskin.

But he also developed another exercise that he required of his students when traveling. He recommended that they should practice "word-painting," a form of writing that briefly describes a scene or experience in exquisite detail. His reasoning was that when practicing "word-painting,"  one becomes totally absorbed in "seeing" the world rather then the usual browsing that happens when one travels. He argues that such "seeing" will out last the limitations of a photograph when the journey is over because it will help the student to develop an eye for the visual aspects of life.

So today I spent the day observing the details. Here is one on my "word images":

Birds were the first musicians.

Drinking coffee at the breakfast table I saw a tiny brown wren sitting on top of the bell which is perched on top of the well house about 20 feet from the window. The sun had just blazed through the magnolia tree on the east side of the garden, so there was a lovely warm filtered light washing over everything. The wren lifted its head skyward and let out a full throated warble I could hear from inside. It's cream colored breast was warmed by the sun. Its throat muscles strained to let us know he was awake.

AAAAH! My Roswell!

Losing It  2014 ink, flash on paper 12" x 12" 
I know what art can do for a city having visited and intentionally sought out the art from each city gateway, airport, highway and places on the street. I have favorites: Chicago, New York, Philadelphia airport, Orlando Airport, Miami Airport. Atlanta's public art trails behind these great cities. I came of age as an artist in Miami and can say that the public art program blossomed in the 1980's and had a powerful influence on city life. The Rockne Grebbs rainbow installation over the Miami River was something to behold while traveling through the city on the highway. My own work is in the public art collections in Miami, Orlando, and Tallahassee. 

I have contributed to Atlanta and Roswell by being active in WCAGA (board member 2014); Advisory Board for the Zuckerman Museum of Art (KSU) and recently appointed to the Steering Committee for the City of Roswell's Imagine Roswell Art: 2014. Our committee is conducting community conversations to gather information to develop a plan for arts and culture in Roswell's future. I am thrilled to be part of this forward thinking city. I am also an active member in the Roswell Historical Society, a cheerleader for historic preservation.

Cities that enable artist communities to flourish will be cities that differentiate themselves from each other. It is the unique aesthetic vision of a city that will mark that city as an attractive destination. How a city looks can only be accomplished when artists are contributors to the process. Daniel Pink's book A Whole New Mind: Why Right Brainers will Rule the Future, says it best. Check it out!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014


Rant 2014 ink on paper 12" x12"

Rant Too

I only rant about politics, and stupid drivers, never about art.

I have no desire to make my work pay for itself.

My ambition is to be known not rich.

I channel my energy into works on paper. 

Launch Time

  • What knowledge gaps do you have?

  • What classes are you dying to take? Creative, professional, technical, etc...

  • What resources do you feel are essential to the growth of your creative or entrepreneurial practice?

    Having been a teacher for 35 years, I am now a voracious learner. I love learning new stuff. I have a great deal of curiosity and that sometimes leads to too many diversions. There will always be gaps in my knowledge. But practically speaking I have no sense of turning a passion for making art into something more career oriented. I like making the stuff, thinking about it, and storing it. More than that: Meh

  • Having said that I am excited about taking the C4 Ignite program. I am not sure I am ready for the full blown "embrace your inner entrepreneur" state of mind but I am curious enough to put aside my resistance to give it a try. I am already doing things to get me on the highway to success, the blogathon, really snazzy business cards, and sending work off the juried exhibitions and award applications. I was nominated for the Anonymous Was A Woman last month. The application is due at the end of the month and that caused me to rethink my resume, exhibition record, etc. It goosed me into action. 

    One thing I need to learn is how to organize all of this, set priorities, know when to pay someone else to do something rather than keeping things on my "To DO" list and then never getting them done. An example is getting the best photos of my work to send to museums, etc.  AND having a plan with a check list for success. OK, now let's do it.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Falling with the Birds

Every morning while drinking coffee in the kitchen I watch the birds come to the feeder just outside the window. One day I noticed that when a bird decides to launch toward the feeder from a tree branch, it just jumps off the branch, wings still tucked in. It FALLS  headlong into space, embracing gravity for a split second. And then its wings open and it glides to the feeder for breakfast. Me and the birds, one of us taking the ultimate risk, the other sitting comfortably in a warm kitchen day dreaming. So I am taking a lesson from the little birds that fall into the air every time they leave a branch.

At this time in my career I need to jump into the air and find my wings. Making my work visible is the feeder I am heading toward when I blog, send my work to exhibitions, engage in the art community that also supports my thinking and my work. Putting it out there, going for the golden ring on the carousel, listening to the wisdom of many friends and valuing opportunities, make falling from the tree possible. I trust the process, so off I go. Wheeeee!

Moving Lines, o/p
(one of a series of paintings that re-imagines the I Ching)

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Little Words

Cut It Out, 

Oh dear! I have never spent so much time worrying over so few words. They just won't arrive in any meaningful order so I forgo this assignment for musing on language.
Image and text have been a fascination of mine for decades. The question of which came first troubles me less that the curious difference in codification. One seems limited (words) in relation to the other (image). I know writers wouldn't agree.

Did the image become the word or did the word become an image?

Henri Michaux's small book Stroke by Stroke challenges this idea by rendering small strokes that morph between marks and images. They seem to reach for meaning through mark making, hovering between image and scribbling. I am drawn to that interface. So I made up drawings that look like writing with the intentionality of making unreadable writing, drawing that approximates writing. The image above is an example of a drawing  that came out of series about language that I revisit from time to time.It is clear polymer over a watercolor painting. I then cut out the negative space around the clear polymer.  I am not interested in answers in this work but rather in opening the space between the two forms of meaning. What could be in-between?

Friday, March 7, 2014

Blue Moon

January Moon, woodblock 22" x 22"

I took the dogs out for their evening jaunt and looked up at the sky tonight. We have been so weighted down by grey that I was startled by the deepness of the night sky and the tiny flickers from so many stars. The space of the night sky, the space of the blue ocean offer mystery, curiosity, and comfort. What I share through my work is a sense of wonder. I don't think my work provides anything more than the knowledge that we are human and that we share the same longings, to love and be loved. 

During an open studio a man walked into my space and looked at a large painting. He stopped and inhaled, then took a step back like he had been softly pushed. He remained there for the longest time looking at the painting while I sat quietly in the corner. Then he walked out with his head down. That's what I want my work to do, change a state of mind.

In my practice I weave beauty to mystery through paint. I honor the history of painting and work to expand its possibilities, to move it forward, and to give voice to the present moment.

Studio Hobo

Mattress Factory Studio

Studio I built in back yard
Basement kitchen studio being rescued

Mountain studio 
Mountain studio

Mountain studio

Mountain studio
Mountain studio

Drawing Room Studio (present)

Finally I moved my work out of the tiny basement studio and into the the drawing room of this old house. (photo) This is where I work now on small paintings. I still use the mountain studio for larger works. And that is only the last 15 years of studio habitation. 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Lost and Found

Mediator, charcoal on paper, 1989
I love the title of Anne West’s book, Mapping the Intelligence of Artistic Work; an Explorative Guide to Making, Thinking and Writing. If we accept that the creative process is a way of knowing then finding out how it works for each of us makes sense. The strategic questions that lurk behind my process are: Is this work necessary? Why? What difference can this work make in the world? How would it feel to not make this work? Agony and ecstasy follow the search for answers. 

These questions push me to examine my work and its relationship to the past as well the present. The past is present even if we ignore its influences. If I want to be relevant I need to know what other painters are doing, thinking and writing about. I need to be able to situate my work in the long trajectory of painting's history.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Wintry Fever

"The force that through the green fuse drives the flower
Drives my green age; that blasts the roots of trees
Is my destroyer.
And I am dumb to tell the crooked rose
My youth is bent by the same wintry fever."

Dylan Thomas

I lived a life of setting goals and now I am retired from all that. Now I have the time to reflect on all the hurry scurry of my former life. Now I can choose how I want to spend the last third of my life. 
Having said that I want something for my work as an artist: visibility. So plans are taking shape. First, a classy business card. Then restarting my blog. And sending images to juried shows that might be matches for my work. Bravely signing up for IGNITE at C4 Atlanta to discover what it means to be an artist entrepreneur. Being with a community of artists. 
My work will be seen but only as the river flows. 

Always Being

Inspiration for my work comes from the smallest things; a single leaf turning in the wind while all else is still; the edge of a gentle wave pushing a line of foam ashore; the pecking of a bird on the oak outside my window; the first startling green of spring. Everything starts with the mark. It is the falling into Being that gives us back ourselves. The mark on the page, in the sand, a gesture with intent affirms our humanness, says we were here. William Irwin Thompson" book The Time Falling Bodies Take to Light has inspired me through many years. We can not escape falling into being.

New Work

Not always but most of the time, my new work is the most interesting to me. This untitled painting is 12" x12" using Flashe paint, an acrylic vinyl paint that dries flat. I like its velvety surface. The paint lies flat and shows no brush marks, a big departure from previous work. I don't have favorite works but I do have works that I like to come back to and think about. This is one of them. What keeps them in my mind is their intrigue, a questioning that keeps surfacing about how they were made and what they mean. I want the works to have that edginess I have been talking about, to subvert expectations. If you find this small painting both attractive and unnerving then I have accomplished what I set out to do, draw you in and then put you on the edge.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Cavorting on the Edge

Rem 1.336

My paintings now are about edges, bumping up against edges, the space between and what it all means.  Edges force us into contemplating change.  Change is a place of tension. The space between here and there opens up and change walks in. I think of the painted marks in my work as characters or declarations in a face to face conversation that encompasses change. For me, making these paintings is a way of 'being with' the other. Structuring the conversation is about my own becoming, making a world to share.

Friday, February 21, 2014


Last night we had storms come through Roswell. This image from 1995 reminded me that spring is coming and with it the terrific storms we get in north Georgia, just east of the mountains. It is the meteorological sign for thunder. The work is one of a series of about ten signs drawn in paint stick on a gold ground on hand-made paper. Several of these drawings were purchased by Saks 5th Ave, for their Tampa store.

Weather is one of my interests. It is the most visible mercurial element of nature. The edges of weather are captivating; a storm front crossing the plains, the outer bands of a hurricane, the soft or hard edges of a tornado racing across   the land deconstructing everything in its path. The edge of a meadow that meets the forest is a demarcation in temperature as well as fauna. The edge of the sea, whether gentle lapping of the Gulf of Mexico or the pounding surf of Cape Hatteras is a place of transition. The edge of Tallulah Gorge offers cascading space.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Making Space

I finally moved my studio up to the drawing room in this old house. The basement had become too small and very cold this winter. So now I have spaciousness and lovely light during the day. Not quite ready for prime time painting until I can get the 150 year old floors covered with a non-permeable material. So I am content to keep working small while playing with new paint Flashe, a vinyl acrylic paint that dries with a velvety matte surface. All works in progress right now. When something settles I will post an image to two.This weird thing is a drawing on made on my mini I Pad.  Meanwhile, good to be back here. I look forward to posting progress.