Those fortunate to walk through Abend Gallery this August will find themselves covering far more ground than is contained within its soft-lit halls and airy chambers. Denver surrealist Shay Davis’s extraordinary “Vision Quest” will set sail on Saturday, Aug. 4, taking guests on a mind-opening Grand Tour of the world’s least-traveled precincts, offering singular introductions to many of its most reclusive inhabitants.
Not long ago, Davis created a series rooted in the Seven Deadly Sins exploring the essence and effect of animal excess. In “Vision Quest” he again takes aim at human folly, this time via a sumptuous study of the non-human casualties of humanity’s insatiable appetites. From the gelid wastes of Antarctica to the steaming jungles of Asia, selected endangered species of the seven continents will populate Vision Quest’s lush habitat, a stunning archipelago of 28 lavish oil paintings that open into the dream-space that exists between perfect fidelity and prescient fantasy. It’s a realm of exquisite contradiction that mirrors the two worlds that Davis has occupied for most of his life.
Davis grew up at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, where art and sports competed for his passion from an early age. Unwilling to choose between the challenge of physical contest and the mental challenge of Salvador Dali, he found accommodation for both, eventually becoming a star running back for the University of Colorado while simultaneously attaining a bachelor’s degree in fine art. After graduation, sports temporarily gained the upper hand. “I messed around in Vail for a while,” Davis smiles. “I wanted to spend a couple of years snowboarding.”
Equilibrium was reestablished in 2004 when Davis moved to San Diego and began dividing his time between studio and surf, by turns riding the waves and perfecting his craft. It was in San Diego that he found himself traveling in easy company with students of the “lowbrow” school, a vivid and often mischievous style well-suited to his laid-back nature. By the time he returned to Colorado in 2007, sports had been consigned to the back seat and Davis has since been primarily devoted to developing his distinctive brand of “futuristic surrealism,” a vibrant variation all his own that will be on full and fascinating display at Abend Gallery. “It’s a form of modern realism. It’s fun, and kind of trippy.”
Sometimes complex, occasionally austere, often playful and always purposeful, Davis’s striking images are visually delicious, intellectually nourishing and emotionally satisfying. A capricious blush of Dali still tinges many of his canvasses, Davis’s infinite imagination, gentle humor and bone-deep reverence for his subjects are plain to see in every precise brush stroke. And if Davis’s physical pursuits are currently spending more time on the sidelines, they continue to give his artistic endeavors a welcome assist.
“Sports teach you self-discipline and a strong work-ethic,” Davis explains. “Those qualities are just as important to my art.”
That’s not surprising, considering that Davis practices the same approach to painting as that favored by the Dutch Masters, a time-consuming and labor-intensive method involving several strata and tremendous mental organization. Davis’s themes are likewise layered, inviting the mind to penetrate the surface and extract meaning unique to each beholding eye.
The artist behind “Vision Quest” presents a heartfelt tribute to Earth’s wondrous biological variety. Beneath that self-evident message, however, one might perceive thoughtful essays on topics ranging anywhere from the planet’s geographical limitations, to our inconsistent attitudes toward furred and feathered fellow travelers, to the growing need for human restraint.
On its face, “Vision Quest” is a journey that spans the length and breadth of the world. In its heart, it’s a journey of the mind with infinite possible destinations. And, this summer, both journeys begin at Abend Gallery.
Abend Gallery is located at 1412 Wazee Street in Denver. “Vision Quest” will run from August 4th – August 25th. To learn more, call 303-355-0950, or visit www.abendgallery.com.