Art Nerd City Guides: New York · Los Angeles

A Studio Visit with Steve Davis

Steve Davis, The Pursuit of Happiness, 2014, Courtesy of the Artist

Steve Davis, The Pursuit of Happiness, 2014, Courtesy of the Artist

The “American Dream” is defined in the dictionary as freedom, equality, and opportunity traditionally held to be available to every American and/or the personal happiness and material comfort gained and sought by individuals in the US. Artist and sculptor, Steve Davis is approaching the “myths and realities” of the of the American dream in his new series of bronze sculptures. This week I met with him in his studio at the SJSU Foundry, where he manages the program, and spoke to him about the concepts of the American Dream that are shaping his new series.

“Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness sounds simple enough.  Perhaps when the words were first written, these were more easily attained.  However, the reality of attaining these things in 2014, is far more complex and dependent on more than just a will to succeed.”

Attempting to create a truthful rendering of political and social commentary in America, Davis is sculpting pieces from live models with real stories. Through his sculptures he reveals Americans realities, each dealing with their own struggles; body image, loss, financial ruin, entitlement, and carelessness. Each piece features new portrayals of the contemporary American through sculptures like The Pursuit of Happiness, a fleshy nude woman who proudly holds her breasts while wearing an American flag that drapes across her back and around her shoulders. The Pursuit of Happiness confronts body image and a multitude of other issues Americans deal with. Other pieces, a sculpture of a surfer from Santa Cruz who lost everything but his will to live, help to form the themes represented throughout Davis’ work.

When Davis was describing his process I realized that he wasn’t just depicting the live models in his work, he was getting to know their stories, and those stories were shaping the personalities of his pieces. Davis says the most amazing thing he came across, from the nude model (above) to the non-typical middle-aged surfer who had lost everything, was their resilience in life to bounce back with a good attitude. these qualities are the what Davis is discovering as the “fabulous and terrifying potential in this land of opportunity.”

Steve Davis and Ryan Carrington, Children at Play, Guadalupe River Park, commissioned by SJ Rotary, Courtesy of the Artist

Steve Davis and Ryan Carrington, Children at Play, Guadalupe River Park, commissioned by SJ Rotary, Courtesy of the Artist

In his studio Davis had works in Paper-mâché, clay and bronze. To be honest, when I had first seen Davis’ work in 2010, in a dark gallery (a Paper-mâché piece), it was done so well that I mistook it for metal. His sculpting abilities are exceptional. Davis is the manager and a teacher at the SJSU Foundry, the largest this side of the Mississippi. Davis has exhibited in the US and Bay Area, and most recently collaborated with artist Genvieve Hastings at SubZero in San Jose. Davis also sculpted Children at Play with artist Ryan Carrington for the San Jose Rotary, which you can view in the Guadalupe River Park, in addition to his ongoing restorative work for city monuments in the Bay Area. For more information on Steve Davis and his work, please visit his website.

Leave A Comment