Feature Articles
 For more information about this article or gallery, please call the gallery phone number listed in the last line of the article, "For more info..."

November Issue 2003

Davidson College in Davidson, NC, Features Works by Benjamin Davis and John Hill

The William H. Van Every Gallery at Davidson College in Davidson, NC, presents a first-ever exhibition of works by self-taught, Charlotte, NC, artist Benjamin "Old Folks" Davis (1938-2000). The exhibition will be on view through Dec. 10, 2003. Also on view in the Edward M. Smith Gallery will be drawings by John Hill through Dec. 1, 2003.

Despite a multitude of physical ailments that plagued him toward the end of his life, Benjamin "Old Folks" Davis produced over 300 works of art based on editorial photographs in The Charlotte Observer. His unique paintings chronicle the tumultuous and celebrated cultural events of the 1990's.

Davis was a life-long resident of Charlotte. As a child, he spent a great deal of time with the elders in his community, hence the nickname "Old Folks." Following his graduation from high school, Davis studied architectural drafting at North Carolina A & T University in Greensboro, NC. He returned to Charlotte and was employed as a supervisor for a commercial roofing company for 32 years.

In the early 1990's, a circulatory ailment required Davis to have both legs amputated at Duke University Medical Center. As part of his rehabilitation he learned to carve and paint on wood panels - a technique he continued to implement long after he returned home to Charlotte.

The therapists at Duke taught Davis to trace images from popular media (newspapers, magazines, etc.) onto pieces of wood with carbon paper. Then he etched grooves into the wood with a soldering tool and used markers and paint to color in the images. A coat of varnish brought up the color and gave the pieces a final protective coating.

With the help of his wife Bessie, the ever-optimistic Davis set up a studio in his bedroom and during the final years of his life produced over 300 unique works of art. The majority of his source imagery was culled from the editorial photographs of his local newspaper, The Charlotte Observer. His prolific output was fueled by a need to " . . .keep his mind occupied." His oeuvre captures a tumultuous time in our nation's history: the double-murder trial of O. J. Simpson, the trial of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, and the inquisition of Bill Clinton over his sexual encounters with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. His works also celebrate the accomplishments of prominent African-Americans such as Tiger Woods, Oprah Winfrey, Spike Lee, and Serena and Venus Williams.

A full-color gallery brochure with essay by Brooke Davis Anderson, Director and Curator of the Contemporary Center at the American Museum of Folk Art in New York will be available.

Another first will take place in the Edward M. Smith Gallery with an exhibition of graphite and ink drawings on paper by emerging artist John Hill.

These meticulous and hyper-sexual drawings of fantastic creatures in clustered scenarios bring to mind the works of R. Crumb and Rube Goldberg.

For additional information check our NC Institutional Gallery listings, call the Gallery Director, Brad Thomas, at 704/ 894-2519 or 704/894-2344 weekdays or by e-mail at (brthomas@davidson.edu).

[ | Nov03 | Feature Articles | Gallery Listings | Home | ]

Carolina Arts is published monthly by Shoestring Publishing Company, a subsidiary of PSMG, Inc.
Copyright© 2003 by PSMG, Inc., which published Charleston Arts from July 1987 - Dec. 1994 and South Carolina Arts from Jan. 1995 - Dec. 1996. It also publishes Carolina Arts Online, Copyright© 2003 by PSMG, Inc. All rights reserved by PSMG, Inc. or by the authors of articles. Reproduction or use without written permission is strictly prohibited. Carolina Arts is available throughout North & South Carolina.