Tavin Davis is an emerging subversive artist living in Bozeman Montana with works exhibiting internationally, in both galleries and museums. Davis's controversial and subversive works explore and critique social issues in contemporary U.S. culture. With a wide range of subject matter, he attempts to confront his viewers in order to provoke thought and discussion on the topics and issues that motivate him as an artist.
1. What’s your preferred medium to express yourself and your work? How did you come into working that way?
Often I have thought my medium to be concept. Concept is the very first medium in which my work is expressed through and then the most fitting physical medium can be applied. As of lately, I have been using a lot of acrylic, aerosol acrylic, sculpture, found object, and performance to make my works but I would never like to say I use one specific medium over any other because I really use any vehicle that best delivers my concept.
2. Where did you grow up and do you think that’s affected, at all, your vision as an artist?
Does your current environment affect your work? I grew up in a small city called Billings Montana. I was born and raised there until I was 11 years old and after that my family started to move around a lot. I wouldn’t say that WHERE I grew up really has had any affect on my work but rather HOW I grew up has. After I started moving around a lot, it was hard to find any solid ground or make any solid friendships because I was always the new kid in school or in the area. This was tough but as a result I really found myself becoming reclusive for a long time and being interested in drawing and later, in philosophy. Though, on second thought, I would say growing up in a blue collar state may have fueled my current work. Funny to think about that now.
3. What was your dream growing up as a child?
Well I guess growing up, I went through 2 huge stages. Until I was 8, I wanted to be an archaeologist. I loved Egypt and trying to figure out what the hieroglyphs meant. I thought it was kind of mystical or mysterious and I guess a little creepy too. Then, my dad’s friend gave me a BMX video for my 8th birthday and after that I wanted to be a professional freestyle BMX rider. I wanted to be in the X Games and ride with the best in the world (which never happened haha). I have been involved with the BMX scene for about 15 years now and it has been a blast but due to an unfortunate accident last summer, I have slowed down in that department and now focused most if not all of my energy on my work. Which has been great to do.
4. What has become most important to you or your work at this moment in your life?
As of now, the most important thing in my life has become my work, and the most important thing in my work has become life. What I mean by that is, over the past 6 months or so, I have been really attempting to represent reality as honestly and as realistically as possible. Not in the traditional ways that renaissance painters did, nor realism painters/sculptors, nor in any sense an illusionistic way. What I mean by representing reality is, exploring and asking questions about reality past the facades. Past the smoke and mirrors put up by society and social norms. This often comes in the form of asking questions about the current status of our humanity as a culture or our relationships to one another and to the objects around us. Maybe calling out for accountability and honesty or simply reaching into and observing the social fabric of contemporary U.S. culture as a whole.
5. Is there any specific moment(s) or memory in your life that pushed you definitively towards the arts or to pursue your creative ambitions?
Absolutely! I remember when I went to college, I really wanted to be a philosopher. I loved the idea of being able to think and to maybe challenge why we perceive how we do. I quickly realized that writing was not exactly what I wanted and that I wanted to make things that did this. I wanted to make things that made us think and challenged peoples perceptions and constructs. I found out that art had this ability and after bouncing around a little in college I finally found myself in the art program and because of that, I have really found my place in the world I think.
6. Who or what would you say is your biggest inspiration(s) and how do you think they/it have influenced your work?
I think the largest influence on me has been Marcel Duchamp. He was the first artist I learned about that used concept and philosophy as art work. He was everything to me for a long time and I learned a lot from exploring the ideas I thought he was exploring in his time. Transporting to now though I find a lot of inspiration from a lot of different artists. Artists such as Banksy, Mark Bradford, Martin Creed, John Baldessari, Andre Serrano, Basquiat, Ai WeiWei, Lawrence Weiner...... honestly... this could go on for a while.
7. What does your work mean to you? If anything at all?
I think my work is my mode of communication. It is my philosophies, my questions, and thoughts all bundled up into some sort of experience and with each work I am hoping to simply have these thoughts read.
8. What is your definition of ‘art’, even if it’s total bullshit?
I believe first and for most that art must have concept and thought past the surface of the work. I believe art is powerful in the ways it is able to challenge and even change a viewers perceptions, ideals, and constructs and that everything that holds the title of “art” should do something of that nature. To make you see differently or at least question why we as people think, see, or feel in such a way. To really provide an experience. To beg questions about the larger questions of life and to project those questions outwardly in a way that can be experienced by someone other than the artist. I think this is the ultimate responsibility of art and that work that falls short of these attempts, is not better nor worse but something different. Holding a separate purpose from that of art.