When I envision a perfect future
world, I see a city, and it is full of beauty: green everywhere, gardeners
tending smiles, parks and lawns in full bloom between amazing buildings like
those built by our grandfathers, artists performing in the streets, vendors
peddling their wares, children learning and creating beauty in the midst of it
In this perfect world people want to
live in our beautiful city rather than commute in from the suburbs. They work
here too, and while not everyone can love their job in this perfect city they at
least love the walk to and from work. Every morning and lunch break and evening
they see something newly created, something beautiful that makes them pause and
smile and indulge for just a second; something that makes them know the decision
to live here was the right decision, because living here—yes, here, in this
bustling city—gives them a peace in their lives that they would find nowhere
I picture this perfect world often
and I ask myself how can I bring it about? What is my role?
As an artist I know I cannot make anyone’s life beautiful; that task, like everything else that makes life worth living, is strictly in the hands of the individual. But what I can do—what I must do—is create art, using whatever inspiration I can find. I can place this art where the people of the city will see it. Not every person will find beauty and inspiration in what I create--such is the nature of art. But at a bare minimum, I hope that my work causes people to pause, and to question: From what structure was this scrap metal removed? Where did this street person sleep last night? What becomes of all the other busted concrete that doesn't get stacked into statues?
I know also that it is my role
in bringing about this perfect world to teach this art: how to create it, and
how to appreciate it. In a word, how to find it.
I often find beauty in discarded
things: busted concrete, scrap metal, forgotten brother and sister humans. If I
have a gift it is the ability to see the art that lives in these things, and
to bring it out in sculpture and on film. This is the unconscious theme that has
permeated my art since I was a child.
I began making art using still and
moving pictures. More recently I have used metal and stone—largely discarded
metal and stone. I create art in this way because I love the theme of rebirth
that it implies: a discarded girder becomes a railing; busted concrete becomes a
shoreline sculpture. Inherent in these materials is a sense of both the
permanent and the impermanent: metal and stone live forever, but the structures
they form inevitably decay and collapse. My sculptures can be permanent enough
that they live to be seen by the people of my perfect city; or they may be
knocked down by vandals. But I know that even when they are destroyed, they
provide the raw materials for me or someone else to use again.
And so the cycle repeats.
In each year from now until my
perfect city is born, I will build these things of beauty. I will challenge
others to find the beauty in them, or at least to ask the hard questions that
they raise. I will teach the children to create beauty
out of rock, and in so doing to respect the earth. And I will teach parents to
indulge their children, for they are the architects of my perfect city.
It is only by teaching our children to respect and create beauty that my vision will come into being, and this is why I am an artist.
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Copyright © 2003 by Matthew Loflin Davis. All rights reserved.