There is something particularly apropos about Liz Davidson’s participation in Studio Georgeville’s new show “Bread and Roses: A Celebration of Women.” She has travelled a long road from the sole, uncertain female sculptor in her class at the Ontario College of Art in the 60s, to the artist she is today.
Female sculptors were pretty rare in the 60s; successful female sculptors even rarer. When she first began as a student in the male-dominated art-world, Davidson’s more intuitive approach to sculpture was not an option. The few successful women artists of that time were valued, she felt, because they adopted the predominant concepts regarding what was to be considered “real art”. Not only were her efforts not taken seriously, but neither was Davidson the artist. She was told that, like most women, she was a dabbler who would soon be married and feeding babies. Since that time Davidson has learned a few things—first and foremost she has learned trust her own process, which is to listen and wait for the inner voice to speak, knowing it will bring her to her own deepest truths.
Davidson has been hearing-impaired since a childhood illness damaged her hearing; this has made her especially sensitive to the visual world—to colours, textures and design. She loves to work with her hands, which have a life and voice of their own and lead the most direct path to her soul. And she is always committed to discovering what is true to her, no matter how painful, unpredictable or uncomfortable. This is the magic of Liz Davidson. She pays attention to what her art is telling her. “It’s bigger than me,” she says, smiling. This way of working brings with it an innate cohesiveness, as one thing naturally leads to the next. Sometimes the process can lead to places that surprise and shock the artist. “It can be pretty scary,” says Davidson. “You sometimes wonder if you’re letting it go too far. But you really don’t have the choice not to keep going.”
Davidson’s art poses the questions: Why are we here? How do we become human? By trusting her journey into the female inner landscape—a landscape relatively recently explored through art—she has found the courage to enter the dark places, to delve, and to reveal both the shadows and the light that arise from this place. Her art reflects her deep feeling for life, her steady search for what it is that makes us human.
One such painful inward journey occurred in 1989, following the tragic deaths of fourteen women at the Polytechnique in Montréal. A woman who seldom dreamed, she awoke one night with the indelible image of a pregnant woman on the cross. The image shook and repelled her, but it continued to haunt her. Finally she began to work with it, to explore what it might be trying to say. From this painful soul search she found Sophia, the Greek goddess of wisdom and her three daughters, “Faith”, “Hope”, and “Charity”. The work, entitled, “Sophia…the female Christ” depicts these elements of Sophia’s wisdom, and show Davidson’s own hope for forgiveness and acceptance. Two of these installations, “Faith”, and “Hope” are presently on display at Studio Georgeville. They are made of gampi paper (a textured and transluscent paper from the bark of the Japanese gampi tree, moulded over a portion of some woman’s body, forming a semi-transparent body cast. This beautiful paper fans delicately out from the edges of the body, and conveys (to me at least) the sense that we are more than flesh, that the spirit radiates outwards. The beauty of Davidson’s work rises from the darkness of tragedy. The women in many of her works seem to drift, to float in space, their flesh becoming spirit.
Davidson has deeply explored the human body, and situated our humanity and compassion in the truth it reveals.
To see more of Liz Davidson’s beautiful artwork, check out her website at: www.lizdavidsonartist.com
The Sherbrooke Record, March13, 2009
© liz davidson 2006-11 all rights reserved
A collaborative exhibition between Arts Sutton and la Galerie d'art Stewart Hall, 2008-09
Catalogue by Joyce Millar, director, la Galerie d'art Stewart Hall