Matthew Loflin Davis: Artist's Statement

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 all.

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 else.

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.