Written by 3:32 AM interview, news

In light life and love “IAM”

Reggie Davis

The contingencies of history and the one truth that life is, by its very nature, imperfect.Reggie Davis

Describe the work you do?

As a self taught visual artist my interest has always been in the transformational and healing power of art, as a mind-body practice. Transformation is what someone, like myself who struggles with addiction seeks; a transformation that comes through a balancing of relationships, between contradictory emotions with sensory and somatic memories. My art serves as that balance. My primary medium is figurative sculpturing with reclaimed materials.They serve as testaments to the conservation of natural resources and as advocates for a sustainable environment. As well as advocates for a sustainable recovery from addiction through their engagement as a creative process and or therapeutic tool.

The majority of my figurative sculptures are based on what has been called, in want of a better word “African Primitivism”. Utilizing “primitivism’s” compositional devices, its sophisticated approach to the abstraction of the human form. Creating works inspired by religious ideals and spiritual experiences. Works that are unselfconscious as art. Works where a great amount of mechanical craftsmanship is still required. African “primitivism” expresses my view of art as something that changes life and changes the artist. A personal and spiritual transformation alluding to the magical nature of art making seen in tribal African art.

Some of the objectives I wish to accomplish with my art are to challenge the factuality of materiality by modifying the original utilitarian objects meaning and significance. Creating a new emotion, a new layer of significance by manipulating the objects perceived inherent value and mixing it with my intended meaning such that the viewer might take both meanings into account, finding similarities between the complementary opposites. To create figurative sculptures that demonstrates the importance of conserving our limited natural resources.
Transform a gallery space into a healing environment. A space for creative engagement, through artistic expression and human connection. Through the use of energetic figurative sculptures created and fortified with a sense of presence, allowing for a complete visual work over.
Each figurative symbolizes an active return to the body -flesh off, showing the body as a framework analogous to the major skeleton, like our bodies provide structure and stability, containing the potential for emotional connection, containment and release.
Archetypal, open-framework figurative s that the viewer activates by their story; to fill with their own personal iconography, emotional constructs, mental patterning to be transformed, dismantled, released, reconciled, or reconstructed into new possible paths forward.

When how and why I started my art practice?

Born in 1961 in Berkeley, CA. I have always been looking for a way to combine my love for the esoteric arts with the visual arts and my work of 17 years as a clinical social worker. Possessing degrees in the humanities, psychology and philosophy, and a masters degree in social welfare, has allowed me to study and work with art and other expressive therapies as a clinical social worker.
My clients like myself, survivors of trauma, and addiction has found that by utilizing the creative process of artistic self-expression I was able to improve not only my clients mental, physical and emotional well-being but mine as well.

I’ve also been interested in the transformative, healing power of art. The transformative process that as a student of esoterica, I see as a metaphor for mental alchemy. “Transmuting problems into workable solutions, through the expansion of our creative powers, allowing us to alter aspects of our lives into those that are more positive, and aligned with our goals.”
I mainly work with found objects – discarded materials, taken to the alchemical process of transformation by altering the objects, context and content, modifying their meaning and significance. Transcended, to a higher level of visual, and emotional understanding.
But what motivates me most of all as a visual artist is the process of discovery the creative life provides.

Discovering the new inside the referential while maintaing its inherent history.
Discovering connections between “inner” and “outer” dimensions.
Discovering new visual languages in representational objects, images, figurative self-constructs utilizing found objects.
Discovering and developing new conceptual strategies for the visual arts.
The intuitive, inspiring and transforming self-discovery that comes from the creative process that provides a spiritual intimacy that is life affirming and life giving.

My interest were re-awakened when I took a class through Glide Health Services called Snapping Back: Exploring Addiction in the Tenderloin Through Photography, that was literally both life changing and life affirming. It was also my first gallery show titled: “Exposure: Photographic Tales from the Tenderloin. My work was entitled “RECYCLED MEN” where my photographic imagery was not of people but consisted of autobiographical figurative sculptures. Each represent something overcome. So for me, more than anything else those figurative represented milestones in my life, From the loss of innocence, to the loss of life, to being completely loss to the thrones of addiction. To being stripped bare, hitting rock bottom. Then transformation, reclamation, possibility and hope. Again crafted from found objects that are a process of recreating and reconstructing my own form and perspective. Always crafting by the motto: “Manifestation of positive movement, can lead to manifestation for positive change”.

Below is the narrative that accompanied the visual iconography.


I turn the camera on myself. And shed my mask like second skin. “What’s left, for me to believe in.”
“Abide by the light.” The gospel speaks its good news. The camera beams and I’m flashed frozen and a bit washed out. Blinded by its intuitions, I close my eyes and begin to dream of what’s been lost, stolen forgotten in odes and epitaphs of younger days, a time when I held myself sacred.
For the moment i’m free from the stagnation, the idleness, and distractions of the drug and am left with a dreamful, no longer maligned imagination. I’m lost In a world of visions and intuitions. I’m no longer black or white or stunted by shades of gray, nor ” made – to – believe in technicolor” of right or wrong, no judgements, and self-incriminations.
I’m tapped into a greater good, carving out my existence in the creation of a meaningful life in every living color of potential and possibilities crafted by the aligned faithfulness of these hands and the graces of the GOD of my heart in life light and love.
There is much more feeling here then the fleeting visceral “recreational” sensation of the mindless drug. But a mindfulness of feeling, thought, and sensations bordering on ecstatic creative imagining and re-imagines and transformations like myself (working on recovery) in the process of becoming.

What more proof does one need to believe in a loving god. Who but a god of love of our own heart would allow us to be partners in our own creation or creative re-creation. The incursion of grace constantly inspiring me, quenching every dire expectation, with hand – crafted faithfulness. Such grace reminding me that like the discards that make up my art; I need not be perfect, to be perfectly loved. And also like my creations much more than my circumstance.

In light life and love.

Do you think of yourself as a conceptual artist?

Not at all. I consider myself more of an intuitive artist. My philosophy behind that is based on the ideology that inspiration comes from within. From the unconscious and even at times, supra consciousness. Sometimes called the collective unconsciousness that is built upon ancestral experiences, universal consciousness, or humanities global consciousness. An intuitive artist sees art making as holistic creativity — creativity experienced fully embodied. Also as a spiritual process as well where crafting is seen as a form of meditation that opens you up to presence and mindfulness.

And its not what many would think is purely a spontaneous expression. Once you receive the idea, you have to move it around, feel it, be with its changes, be with what it changes, even in yourself. Developing this “technique” comes after many days, weeks, months, and hours of trial and error, and as a self taught artist visual artist, years of self-guided practice.

As an intuitive artist there are no measurable results, or formulaic concepts to drawn upon like in the conceptual and other outcome based arts. Personally I’m still at the stage of what it takes, as well as what it gives back. I do know that one of the most important ” talents” one has to posses to be a great intuitive artist is a profound sense of gratitude. That is how you evolve, and get consistent results. And okay, maybe outcome is important but not always in relation only to the resulting piece of art, also in relation to ones sense of being.

Who or what has lasting influence on your practice?

Being a member of AMORC (Ancient and Mystical Order of the Rosae Cruis) North America Jurisdiction for over 15 years. Many like to think of AMORC as some kind of a secret society, or a cult (people always fear the unknown, what they fail to understand or even try to comprehend) which I can insure you its not. What it is, is a nondenominational school of mystical thought open to any worthy truth seeker.
Its focus has an always been on the sciences, history, arts, mysticism and spirituality. With a focus on interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary topics related to the arts and sciences.
And much more recently a viewing at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum “Mystical Symbolism: The Salon de la Rose+Croix in Paris 1892-1897”. With a feature on symbolist paintings by a few of my favorite artist such as Mondrian, Kandinsky and Jean Delville. Spanish artist Rogelio de Egusquiza. Artist who take us from the everyday toward the infinite.

A large majority of my current work,contains elements of allegorical, mythical, mystical and or esoteric religious iconography, (which is part of a vast majority of “primitivist” art) even when they are shrouded in social narrative there are a few arcane symbolist motifs. Especially in the utilization of elongated bodies, crafted into ethereal and androgynous beings. All in the hopes of creating a visionary state of mind in the viewer in a contemplative atmosphere.

How would you describe the art scene in your area?

I think the San Francisco art scene is in the process of re-defining itself, or simply trying to survive. Especially now when it is most needed as San Francisco has lost most of its artistic heritage and cultural identity due to the inundation of technological commerce companies such as Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Adobe, Twitter, etc and the mass commercialism that goes along with it. Overtaking historic neighborhoods that had thriving art scenes such as the Haight Asbury and the, what many people call “forbidding” tenderloin district. As well as the once vibrant Mission District that has become a harbinger of over priced kitsch filled “yuppie” shops, catering to the urbanites that have invaded the cities in the last couple of years. Many working for the aforementioned ” Frankensteinian technological, and cultural destroying, soul sucking monsters of e industry, not creating but propagating pollutants of media waste, and glutinousness information consumption”. That in my opinion not only destroys cultures spreading syphilitic – type mass infections (Okay maybe a bit harsh) that strips away mans intuitions and imaginations, and replaces them with formulaic concepts, and virtual words of digitized overt obsessiveness that burns out brain cells, faster and much more efficiently then any opiate or amp filled rush. “His” hand craftiness becoming nothing more then a simple push of a button. But there are pockets of artistic integrity still struggling to survive, drawing upon San Francisco’s artistic history. Seeing to its preservation through archival conservation, performance, gallery shows and instillations in small public non profit museums sprinkled through its historic neighborhoods such as the Tenderloin museum, The Beat museum for all the Jack Kercuac and Allen Gensberg fans, like myself, Musee Mecanique, GLBT History Museum, San Francisco Museum, and my most beloved San Francisco Art Exchange. There are other, larger more notable museums, such as SFMOMA, The Yerba Buena Center for the Arts that has a much more local, and socially engaged focus, and the Museum of the African Diaspora in the South of Market area of San Francisco that many consider to be the hub of the San Francisco Art Scene, but the aforementioned cater specifically to San Francisco and its cultural diversity.

Sorry if this seems pretty harsh but these technological entities, are transforming San Francisco in what was once a vibrant metropolitan city, into a very sterile city. Were prosperity is evident as well as the disproportionate amount of poverty. Along with the disappearing urban and cultural landscape that gave the city its flavor, its grit. The shrinking outdoor, natural, green spaces. Becoming, like its L.A counterpart, very plastic and manufactured. But what I will say for L. A they are currently having a cultural revival, and their art scene is on the up swing.

In your opinion what does art mean in contemporary culture?

I think since the advert of the digital age, everything is crafted to a code of ultimate perfection. A digital theology, filled with formulaic constructs that sees a world (even in art) free of flaws. That can be easily removed proficiently and quick through the calculated maliciousness of (photoshop) one quick key press. Sometimes the true beauty in a piece of art comes from its weak spots. Its imperfections, a slight irregularity, graced and unexpected. Crafted by a loving hand and various, delightful imaginings involved, rather than a quick key board touch. I feel that this is what art in our contemporary culture lacks; technically perfect but lacking humanity, flaws and all.

“The very perfection of a man, to find out his own imperfections……Forget perfection, only God is perfect.”
The contingencies of history and the one truth that life is, by its very nature, imperfect.

Again, I think that’s what makes great art, imperfections knitted into bits and pieces of life. The very thing that makes us human. All the learning that comes from the trials and errors of trying to “get it right”. All the overuse and omissions, miscalculations. The petulance, the giving up, ultimately coming to the conclusion that there are stories in the mistakes, compelling mysteries in the smudges, or off centered line, and beauty in the ragged edges aged by time and filled with history that makes our art, truly and independently our own.
Something digital technology can never achieve, nor its artifice of digitized images, and cybernetic sculptures. Not even its highly refined images, or rapid prototyping,
There is a lot of interactivity in art in contemporary culture, especially digital art which is good. But not when the technology is used to “summon” up (not create) art through pre-programed routines..Or create virtual worlds, simulated environments with remarkable veracity. Escaping from the real world, and environments in need of so much TLC (tender loving care).
This is the only world we got, you cannot live in a virtual world.
Yes, digital media is another medium that artist can and have been using as a means of creative expression. It still remains external to us, and not part of the constellation of physical, emotional, sensorial, cognitive, and spiritual experience and phenomena, that makes us human, present, mindful and consciously aware.

What are you working on right now?

A proposal for a solo show based on a series of abstract figural narrative pieces that deals with issues related to the African Diaspora, cross cultural migrations and their effect on contemporary African American art, culture, and the post modernist art movement as a whole. Whew…..that’s a mouthful.

A series of figuratives based on African deities and saints.

As well as a series called “Walking Sticks” Where discarded, donated and vintage parasols, and umbrella handles are transformed into abstracted “walking stick” insect-like figuratives.
I usually work on several pieces at a time, its probably due in part to my bipolarity, or what I consider myself to be, neurodiverse. Another movement I’m an advocate for.
Most of the new images attached are from the three series. Several of the others are from recent gallery shows and exhibitions.


Reggie Davis
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