CREATIVE PEAKS: Feathery Finesse

By on January 12, 2016

Artist uses watercolors and feathers to explore the natural world and our relation to place. 

‘Never Dies’ by Camille Davis hangs as part of her new show debauting at Daly projects Thursday. (Photo: daly projects)

‘Never Dies’ by Camille Davis hangs as part of her new show debauting at Daly projects Thursday. (Photo: daly projects)

Jackson, WY – A few years ago Camille Davis discovered several woodpecker feathers while out on a hike.

Their beauty struck the artist who immediately wanted to study them and capture their likeness in paint.

From there Davis started painting any feather she could find — owls, hawks, crows or pigeons. At first the paintings were naturalistic studies, almost a form of preservation and documentation. But in the last year her work has evolved, and the feather paintings have assumed more meaning and structure. Davis still paints the feathers in their natural state, but she puts them in specific forms like rows, circles or crosses based on Native American beliefs about the birds and on what the feathers mean to her.

Her latest feather paintings make up a new exhibit at Daly Projects, “Oak Savanna,” named after a region in northern California where Davis now lives. The show opens with a reception Thursday evening.

Daly Projects owner Meg Daly initially slated the show as the gallery’s first of 2016 because it fit her schedule, but she also found it to be the perfect way to start the year.

“Her work is light and ephemeral,” Daly said. “It captures that fresh and quiet feeling that feels right for January.”

The show will feature about 30 paintings ranging in size and price, starting at about $200.

Davis is an artist distinguished by her excellent craftsmanship, Daly said.

Her portfolio includes impressionistic oil portraits as well as watercolor studies of feathers and other natural objects. The watercolor work is representational on a white background.

“They are just simply lovely,” Daly said.

Davis uses silver point to make the details in her paintings pop. She is skilled at blending color together in her watercolor work. While her oil paintings are looser and more impressionistic, her watercolors are precise — an unusual divergence of styles for a painter.

“She’s just a really excellent artist,” Daly said.

Whatever medium Davis works in, symbolism, as well as her feelings, influence her paintings.

“There is sort of this immediacy of the artist’s heart or spirit there,” Daly said. “As opposed to painting from an analytical place, she comes much more from the heart.”

The Daly Projects show features all watercolors and almost all feathers.

Watercolor is the perfect medium  to depict feathers. The paint and the subject are light and delicate, Davis said.

Davis, who grew up in Jackson, started working in watercolor while in middle school. It’s been her medium of choice for the last year.

“I love it because it very much has a life of its own,” she said. “I can control where it goes on the paper, but enjoy letting the colors bleed and swirl how they will.”

The natural world has always informed Davis’ work. She has painted flowers, landscapes and people. She never distorts or manipulates her subject, but captures what it represents in how she sees it.

“Maybe if I grew up in a city I would be painting abstract man-made structures. Who knows? But I have a great awareness and respect for the wild that comes from living alongside it,” she said.

Davis tries to use different feathers and to change compositions to make each piece she creates unique for the viewer and a new challenge for herself as an artist.

Her work is an exploration of the ways birds and feathers are perceived in different cultures — how they possess supernatural powers offering the ability to influence a person with certain attributes and traits, she said.

For example, a heron feather symbolizes patience, grace and confidence in some cultures, while a turkey feather might denote abundance, pride and fertility.

Davis moved to northern California this year and started exploring the oak savanna and redwood forests of the region. She still paints the feathers and natural objects she finds. The land, like that in Wyoming, is wild, beautiful and inspiring.

“It is a very magical place,” she said.

The feathers she paints represent the special places where she finds them. They are meant to evoke the feelings of that place and represent natural cycles of the environment. They are a way of sharing the deeper essence of the birds and of the forests where they live and leave their feathers.

“I agree that feathers are gifts,” Davis said. “And this is my way of honoring the birds.” PJH

Camille Davis, “Oak Savanna,” a watercolor exhibition, reception 5 to 7 p.m., Thursday at Daly Projects, 125 E. Pearl Street.

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