FT. LAUDERDALE – Not ordinary images; certainly not ordinary messages, Louis Davis’ powerful pictures strike viewers with such emotional force they are challenged to reexamine their perceptions. Davis’ work is not just about “pretty pictures”, he brings visual voice to environmental degradation, political landscapes, man’s inhumanity to man, the beauty of the human body. His pieces leave deep impressions not soon forgotten.
“The realities of ‘oppressed’ people’s conditions tend to be ignored by a large section of people, who if they knew and understood, could create the basis for change. I hope to have people engage with these issues… give them a little thought. If I can get even one person to do that, I consider what I do to be successful”, says Davis.
The Fort Lauderdale-based visual artist will exhibit his photo manipulations on Saturday August 8 at 1:30 PM at the Broward County South Regional /Broward College Library, 7300 Pines Boulevard, Pembroke Pines, Florida. Guest artiste Nzingah Oniwosan will add movement expressions while master storyteller Easton Lee will lead the formalities.
The Jamaican-born artist has been creating photo collages for more than twenty years. Described as surreal, dark, artistic commentary, incongruous, his photographs begs the viewer to question, debate, and take action. But, among the messages and symbolism are stirringly moving images in full colour.
“When I first started to work seriously in photography in the 1980s, the then prevailing thought was that black and white was the only photographic art form. Many photographers outside of Jamaica challenged that as I did there. And by challenging the norm, I set out to create work ‘beyond the ordinary’ at a level of expression that had to be considered as art… hence my solo exhibition “Incongruity and Decomposition” in 1999.
“At that time, the other Jamaican photographers using colour either never believed in it as an art form, or they were producing the usual basic photographic magazine stuff… the portrait of the toothless old woman, the sunsets, man with donkey… that sort of thing. Then when people started accepting that kind of work, they transferred the old prejudice to computer manipulated photography. You can therefore guess what my next goal was”.
Davis also worked in film and television production in Jamaica in the turbulent 70’ and 80s — a time that also marked the island’s relationship with international multilateral agencies such as the International Monetary Fund. With his camera he chronicled events, faces, voices, and places that would tell the story of Jamaica’s pained adolescence.
Today, this visual diary has grown into a body of work that underscores the artist’s activism and commercial success. Among his accolades is the fact that Davis was a 2007 recipient of a Fellowship from the South Florida Cultural Consortium, a much sought after recognition that lauds artists for their creative excellence. His creative energy is also a result of the environment in which he lives.
As a resident of downtown Fort Lauderdale’s Artspace Sailboat Bend Lofts, Davis lives among thirty-six fellow artists in a unique building that fosters creativity. The living-work apartments, with high ceilings and wide-open spaces, do double duty as studio and living area. Indeed, Davis confirms that Sailboat Bend is an incubator of ideas and productivity. However, he bemoans the effect cuts in the arts is having on the art community.
“No society sustains the dignity of humankind without strong support and appreciation for the arts. That is history. But that might be changing. With the deleterious effects of twitter, facebook, television, and even the internet, people are being shaped into a new ‘lack of consciousness’. Though new art forms are being created I wonder as to their substance, their relationship with the public, and longevity. The good thing is that artists can also use the internet to promote their art and art in general. I can’t be positive as to the merits of the others”.
It is this kind of energy and inspiration that makes its way onto Davis’ photographic canvases. Come experience the visual activism, and some pretty pictures too, that Davis brings to his work with bare-faced honesty and enthusiasm. The exhibition continues through August.
Sample of Davis’ Work