Evelyn Davis-Walker—House + Wife Revisited

December 17, 2018 - March 15, 2019
 
Gallery Talk: Saturday, February 9, 1:00 - 2:00 p.m.
Residency: Monday - Tuesday, February 25-26, 2019
Assembly:  Monday, February 25, 2019, 10:00 to 11:00 a.m.
Reception: Tuesday, February 26, 2019, 4:00 to 7:00 p.m.

The second show in the Circulus Retro(Circle Back) exhibition series presents Evelyn Davis-Walker'sassisted readymades installation, House + Wife Revisitedwhich converts the Thompson Gallery into a home of the past, replete with period objects littered with collages that critically explore period advertisement imagery. The artist describes the work as “predicated on images that were created for the people of the 1940s, 50s, and 60s.” In the context of the second decade of the 2000s, Davis-Walker'swork provides contemporary viewers with a unique opportunity to look back upon that timeframe with heightened scrutiny.
 
Using various industrial decaling techniques—each separate sculpture surface requires a different decal process—Davis-Walkercreated collages on top of consumer goods that literally reunite message with object. Trained in the graphic arts, Davis-Walkerrefocused her area of expertise, turning it upon itself to examine the impact of the message in the medium. In her House + Wife Revisitedseries, Davis-Walkercollected and combined household objects and advertisements between the decades of the 1940s -1960s. Through her retrospection, she amassed a collection of distinctly American ephemera that targeted women in the home over half a century ago. Davis-Walkernotes, “It feels as if I am able to speak through the artwork with information and aspects of today’s society that really wasn’t talked about so many years ago. Though visually shown, it wasn’t acceptable as a society to address, and so for me, I feel as if I am 60+ years late, if you will, with bringing these up to have a conversation.
 
For the artist, it was not enough to make a body of collages and collage-adorned sculptures. Davis-Walkerdevised and orchestrated the ensemble of works into an installation that sets her sculptures and collages into a period-specific architectural setting. A 1940s House-of-the-Month architectural plan from the Monthly Small House Club is taped out onto the floor of the gallery, and visitors literally walk from room to room to encounter objects associated with each living space, placing themselves into the world of yesteryear through the critical lens of Davis-Walker’sjuxtapositions.
 
Evelyn Davis-Walker’swork is inspired by but also responds to her career in graphic design. Davis-Walkerstudied Visual Communication and Computer Art at Otterbein University, earning a B.A. in 2000 and an M.F.A in Advertising Design at Marywood University in Scranton, Pennsylvania in 2007. She began her teaching career as a graphic design professor at Virginia State University before coming back to Otterbein to teach Communication Design and Art Foundations for eight years. In 2016, Davis-Walkermoved to South Georgia, where she currently oversees the Graphic Design area of Valdosta State University’s Art & Design department. She has received numerous awards and has been exhibited widely in solo, group, and juried exhibitions in Arizona, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New York, North and South Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia, and Washington. Davis-Walker’swork is part of the Fort Wayne Museum of Art and private collections around the U.S.
 
Davis-Walkerdescribes her approach to artmaking as having “a strong affinity for all things paper—from collage to creating typographical prints on a letterpress machine.” She uses retro-advertising design and popular culture of the past to create intriguing mixed media pieces that prompt a second look. As a graphic designer and fine artist, Davis-Walkeruses the language of advertising copy in her artwork to construct new contexts and instigate conversations. The sculptures on display in House + Wife Revisitedbelong to a particular category of assemblage, located in the lineage of conceptual artist Marcel Duchamp’s readymades. A readymade is a quotidian object not generally considered art, such as a sink or an iron, that the artist did not create themselves but rather conceptually transformed into a work of art through applying a title that provides a new association for the object. More precisely, Davis-Walker’spieces are assisted-readymades, because she alters the original object with the addition of collage elements – specifically, contemporaneous advertising imagery. Davis-Walkerpoints out that she is “trying to remind the current generation of issues and solutions that have been addressed and achieved but that have also been lost. Sometimes it is helpful to look back and say, ‘Okay, how far have we come and how far do we still need to go?’” 
 
During her residency at The Cambridge School of Weston in late February, Davis-Walkerwill work with students at the school to complete three works for the exhibition. A 1950s stove (Amy’s Stove), sink (Abby’s Sink), and refrigerator (Libba’s Fridge) will be transformed specifically for this exhibition. As these titles indicate, Davis-Walker’ssculptures include women’s first names; that choice calls attention to the impersonal ads she responded to, which tend to deny the individuality of their original audience. As a way of personalizing her sculptures and the relationship between the ads that adorn the objects and the would-be people who own and use them, she gives them titles named after specific people she either knows or is inspired by. In this way, House + Wife Revisitedis a sobering reminder about the general intended audience of the ads of yesteryear, the actual individuals living day to day in their home, and our contemporary consumerist culture that reconsiders such messages and scenarios in the present.
 
Television ads, radio ads, internet ads and the ubiquitous app ads that invade handheld devices all flood our senses with images of happy people doing joyful things promoting just about every mass-produced item for sale. Davis-Walker’swork turns a mirror toward a particular moment in recent commercial history. House + Wife Revisited provides audiences with opportunities to raise questions like: How does consumerist imagery affect the psyche of an individual or a particular group of people? Can we recognize, in our current culture of consumerism, attitudes that may fall out of favor in the following decades? What do today’s advertisements say about present-day culture? Can we see, in today’s ads, ideas or depictions that might look unfavorable to us in the future? Which portrayed object, service or attitude might devolve over time to eventually be seen as malevolent regarding gender, race, class, or the environment? House + Wife Revisitedprompts visitors to raise such questions among many others.

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The Cambridge School of Weston is a progressive high school for day and boarding students in grades 9–12 and PG. CSW's mission is to provide a progressive education that emphasizes deep learning, meaningful relationships, and a dynamic program that inspires students to discover who they are and what their contribution is to their school, their community and the world.