Books, Essays, Press
The surreal, yet strangely familiar pastels of Marilyn Davidson suggest that dreams would look like this if we were more in touch with our subconscious minds. In fact, if I, in my sleep, were suddenly to lose all visual memory of the earth, I might pine for Davidson's landscape of pure color and sensuous forms as if it were the world's perfect emotional equivalent.
To my eyes, each of Davidson's pastels is a diary page. In that time-warped realm of remembrance, old feelings and ideas have surfaced that for years had remained unevaluated, unintegrated with those of the present and, consequently, threateningly footloose in the subconscious. Davidson has repeatedly returned to that realm to wrest lasting meaning from these homeless feelings, as if to decipher their secrets of longevity would be to slowly decode the underlying rhythms of her daily life.
Equivocal space, which is neither an extension of our space in the real world, nor an exclusively fictional space of pure art, sustains Davidson's forms with its iridescent colors, as if it were a fixed-temperature cosmic atmosphere. Its horizon line is low, lying flat and forbidding like the far edge of a tabletop. In some instances, forms are bound to the ground and planted to stay put like political hostages. Conversely, in other places they are suspended in midair.
Davidson's placement of abstract forms in a protonaturalist landscape leads us to surmise that we are witnessing vital spiritual and biological principles, which prove to be mutually dependent for their proper development. These principles are momentarily glimpsed by the mind's eye, so to speak, like ephemeral functions in nature that have been caught by a camera's fastest shutter speed. There is an organic drama in their simple, yet fateful evolution.
This need to transform one's feelings into palpable entities, as if to verify their significance in a world that is overwhelmingly carnal, is the mark of a sculptor's sensibility. And, in fact, a strong sculptural sense has helped to shape these visions of the subconscious and keep them from dissipating into cryptic delusions. One thinks of the lambent sculptures of Henry Moore, with their smooth bulbous surfaces connoting fleshy membranes stretched taut over a dense musculature. Still, we regard these parables thoughtfully, as if at any moment, should our attention let up, something tender in the image might promptly go awry.
This sense of vulnerability permeates all of these works, as if Davidson were probing deep through years of accumulated experience, only to wonder whether her emotional inventory will hold any significance for the world beyond her own slight existence. How one continually struggles with that question, only to surface from its psychic depths in terrible doubt, is Davidson's true subject. She renders it with a bittersweet but effortless immediacy. Most of us are emotionally rock solid in all ways obvious to the outside world. Yet many a visitor, indeed, might see his soul in these works, where he is "torn like a tooth" (to borrow one of Davidson's titles) in the deepest realm of self-identity.
(Excerpted for the web)
Gregory Galligan, Correspondent
The symbolic imagery found in the psychological landscapes of Marilyn Davidson reflect one artist's attempt to attain a level of universal communication. "It is an artist's job to devise and impose an aesthetic order of symbols, to give form to collective and personal history," Davidson believes. "For the cycle of creation and expression to be complete, the finished work must enter the world, because the need for communication has an implicit part in this." She considers a formalist approach to be an artifice with which to manage the raw materials of state of being, feeling, experience, and transition.
Striving to parallel the psychological states with her human figurative references. Slipping the Clutch, for example, with its rounded, resinous forms precariously positioned, suggests a freedom of movement, a dynamic spirit, and a sensual existence. Her pastels project equally powerful imagery, their dynamic quality reiterated in the sinuous strokes of the medium. Ultimately Davidson is most concerned with the abstraction of those psychological states, and she pushes her images until they become symbolic. To that effect, her titles retain an elusive quality, allowing for an open interpretation. Enigmatic and metaphysical, Davidson's symbolic images touch her audience, thus achieving the communication for which she consistently strives.
(Excerpted for the web)
Cynthia Wayne, Assistant Curator
Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art
Davidson conceives visual poetry out of the great archetypal themes of birth, love, solitude, and death-or rebirth, one might say, to be true to the rather spiritual overtones of her sculpture and ethereal landscapes. Her forms, seemingly derived from the vegetable world, often float in a celestial haze. Indeed, whether as flat image or full-blown sculpture, they are symbols of infinite paradox: part firm physical beings and yet wholly transmutable, they stand for perpetually unsettled feelings that at any moment might convert to their opposite states. In almost every piece, these forms make their entrances across the visual field like fantastic puppets, slipped between a source of light and a recessed backdrop that seems to stretch for miles.
Thus Davidson leads us to surmise that we are privileged witnesses to vital spiritual and biological principles, which apparently are mutually dependent for their proper development. These principles are momentarily "glimpsed" by the mind's eye, so to speak, like ephemeral processes of Nature that have been caught by a camera's fastest shutter speed.
The sculptor's faith in the possibility of defining feeling through its physical realization is at the heart of Davidson's aesthetic. She meets the challenge with understatement and grace.
(Excerpted for the web)
The theme of "ordinary disasters" serves as a dramatic springboard for Ms. Davidson's preoccupation with the struggle between human sensuality and the constraints of social convention. Her work is a wry yet horrified commentary on the collision of biological and acculturating processes. These inevitable juxtapositions of fate and free will generate a sense of foreboding and crisis - the "ordinary disasters" of the artist's vision.These works deal with disasters past, present crises, or calamities about to happen.
A recurring image in Ms. Davidson's work is an elegantly molded empty "prom" dress, which appears in many of her paintings and drawings. Headless and armless, this symbol of socialized womanhood arises seemingly from nowhere against colorful yet strangely somber landscapes. Her painting "Woman with Decor" depicts a crimson and ivory silk-striped 18th century Fauteuil [chair] which vies for greater attention than the female figure, symbolized by a vacant red satin dress. In ''The Magic Show," love becomes a conjurer: headless bodies embrace as a disembodied arm pulls back a theatrical curtain to reveal them. In "Eternity Measured by Meals," a Sisyphean pile of food looms behind another of Ms. Davidson's empty gowns. But the symbolism has a poignant resonance: it reflects the repetition of daily necessities that stifle the larger dimensions of human life.
"The Garden Party" portrays a disaster occurring on a bright sunny day against a vivid green ground. A woman appears to have leapt up and upset a table from which a classical male bust is about to fall. The inevitability of calamity permeates through a dark cloud of smoke encroaching from the left, leading the viewer's gaze beyond the edge of the frame. "Natural Conflicts" depicts a female figure standing in the middle of a storm. At her feet lie red fleshy forms, piled high on a delicately flowered carpet. The biological and carnal are once again at odds with the psychological and spiritual.
(Excerpted for the web)
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