Dave Davis stood 5-foot-11, but to meet him was to discover a vibrancy with such height that it winked down at you jokingly from the stars.

He was brilliantly creative, both in the art he made and in the stories he told, and he freely shared it all.

The 69-year-old artist died of natural causes early Tuesday morning at his Clifton art shop. He is survived by two daughters, Amanda and Keesha Davis.

"There's a giant void without him," Amanda Davis said.

Davis was the force behind the downtown Art on the Corner sculpture exhibit, which he founded in 1984.

He was the executive director of the Western Colorado Center for the Arts (The Art Center) for nine years in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

He helped to found the Grand Junction Commission on Arts and Culture, worked on art programs for area schoolchildren and was given the Governor's Award for Excellence in the Arts in 2002.

He was a dynamic sculptor, painter and teacher.

He always had so many dreams and so many ideas, Amanda Davis said in a phone interview from her New York home.

About six months ago, Dave Davis started a nonprofit apprentice learning program with five apprentices he was teaching everything from welding to art business to creative techniques.

"It's about giving to people," he said last week about the Davis Art Process and Media Learning Center. "It's a philosophy about sharing."

"We need to contribute to each other. We need to hunker down and help each other," he said. "We need the art."

On Friday and Saturday, Davis and his apprentices hosted a grand opening for the Davis Art Gallery and a Painting the Piece Party.

Painting the Piece is a 66-inch by 60-inch canvas that holds multiple layers of paintings by Davis, his friends and other artists. Each painting was covered with white paint. Davis intended, at some point in the future, for the canvas to be left outside for nature to reveal the piece's layers and create its own art.

Painting the Piece was painted for the 269th time during the party on Friday. At least 20 people added color to the canvas that evening, but there were many more people who came to the party just to see Davis, said his apprentices, who were gathered Tuesday at his shop.

"He was the greatest dad," said Amanda Davis, an artist who also apprenticed with her dad for a year while learning to sculpt. "He was sweet and gentle and was always there for anybody who needed it. Always. What he did for our community and the people he knew ... there was no end to what he would do for other people."

"He was always teaching and saying ... if I die, these techniques die with me, so I try to share them with as many people as I can," said local artist and writer Wendy Videlock, who hosted Davis recently in the Rabbit Holes conversation series with artists at KAFM.

"This is a big loss for the family. He was monumental. Everything he did was monumental," Videlock said. "He devoted his life to the visual arts. He was really good with the word, too."

Davis was a master storyteller, just as his father was, Amanda Davis said.

Fishing, art or his friends — "his friends were really, really important to him. And what they were doing was really important to him" — were nearly always in his stories, she said.

There was the story about how he convinced a couple of Mormon missionaries who were at his "church of the garage" to give up trying to convert him and go to art school.

There was the story of how he was driving by a local secondhand store and, behold, a sculpture he had sold to a bank years before was sitting out front. He marched into the store, bought back the sculpture for far less than he had been paid for it, loaded it into his truck and took it home.

There were the stories about painting in Amsterdam, one of them about a couple ladies who would always look up at his window to see what recent painting he had placed there. He found out later that they really liked the nudes.

And there were many more stories, told vividly and accompanied with a laughter that bubbled up and boomed out contagiously.

"He had the loudest voice in the whole art department," said Terry Shepherd, The Art Center's artist in residence who met Davis while the two attended Mesa Junior College in the 1970s. "Even back then his spirit filled wherever he was."

Those also were the days when Davis, who had moved to the Grand Valley from Boulder, found the surrounding high desert to be a treasure trove of art supplies.

He would bring home scrap metal and other "trash" and use it in his sculptures that were big and heavy and, in part, suspended off the ground in some semi-impossible way.

He always said he should have been an engineer if only his math skills had been better, Amanda Davis said.

Dave Davis' personality and ability as an artist brought a vitality to everything he did, Shepherd said.

"There was an aura of energy around him that went out at least eight feet," he said.

Davis was one of those people who, "if you could bottle their spirit, it would be an antidote to apathy," Shepherd said.

It was why Davis was able to make Art on the Corner happen on a grassroots level in Grand Junction at a time when much looked bleak economically after the oil shale bust in the 1980s, he said.

It also helped Davis as he worked as the executive director of The Art Center to keep it active and applicable to artists, residents and potential donors during those tough years, Shepherd said.

"He was so hands-on as a director," Shepherd said. "That was part of his intellectual stubbornness."

Davis would curate exhibits along with other well-known artists and then "he also insisted on trimming the hedge out on Orchard Avenue," Shepherd said.

After his years at The Art Center, Davis spent more time painting at his shop and mentoring younger artists.

He also was able to better indulge his aversion to shoes. Flip-flops and shorts were his style no matter the weather, and sometimes a shirt was optional. "Is your dad just out there with no shirt on shoveling snow?" Amanda Davis' friends would ask.

"He was a bear of a man," she said.

He encouraged all around him to be themselves and to create what they loved, and "he was a good example of that, too," Amanda Davis said. "He was just a hero to a lot of people, I think."

Recommended for you