Drawing inspiration from his natural surroundings in eastern Mississippi, James Davis, in his exhibition entitled Another Time’s Forgotten Space, transforms industrial materials into visual abstractions of his environment. The seemingly chaotic and random variations found in nature are highlighted and contrasted by Davis’ labor-intensive use of repetition. His systematic approach to working, simultaneously controlled and random, ultimately reinforces the continued existence of chaotic permutations in nature as opposed to the linear certainty of technological advancement. Through his microscopic, obsessive, and unnatural utilization of common materials (many of which can be found at an office supply store), subjective and objective worlds collide, creating a truly contemporary vision of nature.
In Pine (2005-07), Davis has fashioned a woodland scene by hand-stapling into corkboard over a half million green and silver staples in successive layers. The resulting morphing and plasma-like forms echo the artist’s dreamlike state as he drove through country back roads and is a scene familiar to those living in and around West Point, Mississippi. The area has seen an explosion in jobs and construction after a local hunter created the Mossy Oak Camouflage clothing company, whose designs mimic the local flora. The camouflage clothing allows one to fit into the local landscape, environment, and culture. The recent boom of this particular brand ironically has resulted in deforestation of the very trees that once served as its inspiration.
Consciously creating works in monochrome and duotone, unlike earlier pieces that explored color variations, Davis is able to expose form and medium more clearly. In doing so, he creates a more direct relationship between the formal aspects of his work and its conceptual and literary origins, much in the same way that the text of a book accumulates to make up its physical aspects as well as its content, with the title revealing the overall gist of the work.
By punching thousands of slightly varied holes in velour, then suspending the velour in front of a white piece of fabric and blowing a fan at them, Davis gives us Shower (2007), which at once mimics a constantly glistening field of stars and water droplets on a shower curtain. The piece is a meditation on both his fascination with the behavior of water and a reminiscence of a late-night fishing experience. Surrounded only by the calm, lapping water of a pond and the natural light of a sky full of stars, Davis was struck by the sublime beauty of the situation in which he found himself. The massive scale of Shower envelops viewers and provides them with a sense of sharing in the experience that Davis felt that night.