I grew up in several small towns in southern Minnesota. I loved going down to the river. There was always a river. I learned a lot about life in those days. I remember catching frogs, stickleback minnows and turtles. Streams and rivers had far more life in them then, before the days of corporate farming. “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” is still one of my favorite books. A lot of my spirituality is drawn from life near the river, and I have always gravitated to river towns.
I eventually landed in Lowertown after finishing my bachelor’s in art at St. Cloud State. Today I own a duplex in the West Seventh neighborhood with a beautiful view of the Mississippi.
I approach my work with a sense of adventure. Beginning each piece with the same mindlessness I had when, as a child, I would gaze at clouds, discovering grotesque and wonderful creatures. The pieces evolve from the mindlessness of random lines and effluvium into a hybrid of synthesized forms. The images are realized as I mindfully edit the work. The resultant images are mesmerizing, visceral and surprising. There exists, in much of the work, a narrative that is both familiar and yet alien. While I am drawn to the abstract qualities of painting and drawing, I can’t completely abandon imagery. The work maneuvers stylistically between surrealism and formalist abstraction Although I am very process oriented, I consider the finished piece to be a specimen of inquiry, much like that of any scientist or explorer — a snapshot of the journey. Much of my current work is inspired by impressions I have while bicycling along the bluffs on the Mississippi in St. Paul. There are tons of wonderful incongruities littering the landscape that invite contemplation. On a bicycle one can see not only the forest, but also the trees. I am drawn to forms and structures I observe in nature. I strive not so much to imitate, but to invent. I believe art to be a completely human and therefore synthetic invention that can only reflect that which is natural within us. A tree can be metaphor for lung. Roads carry vehicles like corpuscles in our veins. No matter how hard human beings try to separate themselves from the world, the world conspires to assimilate them. I am simultaneously attracted and repulsed by the incongruity of the human effect in the landscape and on the natural environment. For me, art provides a method in which to reconcile this dichotomy, and examine my relationship with the world populated by seemingly alien beings. After having a brief and fairly heated encounter with the world of fine art in the 1980s and early 1990s, I found myself taking a hiatus from my studio to use my artistic talents in a career more commercial in nature. With the recent downturn in the economy, I made a commitment to start spending time in the studio. Being unencumbered by the pressures that normally plague artists in their quest for survival, I was free to approach art on my own terms.
Nance Derby Davidson