Art as experiment: Local artist’s project combines more than 130 paintings into one
This project is titled “Painting the Piece.” It was a serendipitous idea from local artist Dave Davis that morphed into one of the grandest experiments of his life.
“This is not about art,” Davis said. “The real sense of this is how it reflects on real life.”
For the past several years, Davis has housed a canvas in his Clifton studio where people of all ages come to paint whatever they want for no other reason than because they can. Davis even provides the brushes and recycled house paint.
When each person is done, after giving him or her whatever encouragement he or she wants, Davis takes a photo of the finished product, posts it to his website, davedavisart.com, and paints over the entire piece with white paint, preparing the canvas for the next artist.
“It’s about living and loving the process, not the outcome,” Davis said.
The idea for “Painting the Piece” came during Davis’ solo art show in 2009 at The Art Center. Davis hung a 66-inch by 60-inch abstract painting to sell for thousands. During the show, however, he “got this notion” that he should take it down and let people paint over his work.
He wasn’t sure people would take him seriously. But some did.
From that point on, that one canvas, which started out at a portable 15 pounds, has been painted more than 130 times and “it can’t be picked up.”
Between each of the paintings is an additional layer of white paint.
“It’s exactly what I wanted,” Davis said. “It’s about the spirit of man, woman and child.”
Colorado Mesa University art student Marilyn Wilcox, 50, and professional Palisade artist Mary Mansfield, 62, have paintings in the canvas.
In her more than 30 years as an artist, Mansfield said she has never created a painting only to watch it get covered up in white paint.
“It was so much fun because it’s very nonthreatening,” she said. “You don’t have money in mind. You don’t have anything in your head. It’s a challenge, but it’s very freeing, too.”
That sense of freedom also struck Wilcox the first time she painted the canvas. She has painted it twice.
“(Davis) gave me a brush and loaded it with black paint,” Wilcox said. “He told me to paint over my back. It was just the most amazing experience. It felt like total freedom.”
Artists aren’t the only ones participating in this experiment, though. Harry Brown, 59, a local writer, also has a painting on the canvas.
“It was kind of daunting, that size of canvas, but it was quite an experience when I finally did it,” Brown said. “It was basically just being in the moment. I probably painted over my painting and changed it like four times.”
Brown said it was liberating to know whatever he did would be covered.
“That project has been so inspiring and so transcendent for so many people,” Brown said.
And it isn’t over yet. Although the canvas has more than 130 paintings by dozens of people with dozens of colors and inspirations, Davis isn’t ready for the project to end. Not even close.
“I don’t know how many times it’ll be painted,” Davis said.
When he dies, Davis wants the painting attached to the south-facing side of a local building where it will be “exposed to the elements to have it all undone” layer by colorful layer.
If you’re interested in “Painting the Piece” contact Davis at davedavisart.com.