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Improvised Allure: The Art and Practice of Camille Davis

Spend one day with Camille Davis and you’ll be intoxicated by the energy and depth that exudes from her tiny frame. Much like her paintings, she is simultaneously mystical and explosive.

I met Camille 10 years ago when we were baristas at Shades Café in Jackson Hole. She is a light-hearted ingénue whom I immediately loved. We have since worked collaboratively as muse and designer with my clothing line, AM Renegade. We sat down one chilly evening in her Wilson studio to discuss inspiration and process.

“I don’t really plan anything,” Camille admitted. “Sometimes I will have a vision of what I want to paint, but everything I paint is really personal. I have to have a connection with the subject and want to explore it. That’s my way of sorting it out.”

Camille often addresses the idea of mortality and the fleeting moment through natural imagery, including flowers, fruit, and the human form. These subjects are enhanced by the improvisational method to her painting. Oils provide the perfect medium for her process-oriented work because they have a fluid malleability that responds to whim.

For Camille, the initial subject matter is a catalyst for the paintings and the end result isn’t considered. She finds the idea of a premeditated final product frustrating.

“I paint for the sake of painting and interpret the connections between what is going on physically with my medium and emotionally with my subject,” she explained. “This way I can reach a different level of consciousness with painting. My process is deeply rooted in impressionism, the moment of painting and interpreting motion.”

Working between the boundaries of structure and chaos, Camille finds something new or revealing beyond her initial subject matter. She harnesses relationships between her medium, content and her own state of being. This is in part why Camille’s still lifes, such as a flower in a vase, look like something you want to chat up.

Camille pushes what is symbolic or realistic into a field of abstraction but stops before it dissolves into the unrecognizable. Recently, she’s been adding more of a story to her paintings. “I’m connecting to my past of impressionism and marrying it to realism,” Camille explained. “Before I explored how the act of painting becomes the meaning, it was just about meditating on the subject. Now I want to tell more of a story.” She says this has resulted in part from the influence of Mark Dunstan, her studio mate (whose work was featured on the 2011-2012 cover of JHSM), and his use of the human form to create narrative.

Camille likes to find beauty in strange places. While studying painting at North West College of Art she completed a series of paintings from collecting photos of cadavers. “Someone in my life died and painting was a way to study and understand what was going on inside of me–it was grounding,” Camille said. These paintings have a dreamy, soupy quality where the forms often float in ethereal color fields. She also painted a series of expiring plants. What struck her the most was that as the plant died, the colors became warmer. These types of juxtapositions run throughout her art.

 

“I’ve thought about the question: ‘why painting’ a lot and at the same time I really can’t think about it all,” she said. “Because I don’t know.” This is the intuitive wisdom and ‘of the moment’ obsession I love about Camille. It’s a reminder to get in touch with our visionary selves, dive into the unknown and just keep swimming

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