Brenda Davis (1962 – 2022)
Art by Brenda Davis
Art Type or Medium: Environment/Installation; Painting
Secular or Religious: Mixed
Inspired by visions that “God sends to me,” Brenda Davis filled the walls and ceilings of her double-wide mobile home in rural Alabama with painted depictions of boldly abstracted flowers and birds, multi-colored fronds, primeval jungle royalty, calligraphic-like seals, insects, and painterly swirls. Purchased in 2008, it became Brenda’s fantastical refuge from a troubled life where she continued her longtime practice of taking-in children and adults in need of care.
Diagnosed in childhood with mental disorders, Brenda recalled constantly getting into fights in school, and that she was permanently expelled before learning to read or write. During her 20’s, she cut her herself and took overdoses: “I always felt like I was born of this world, but I’m not from this world.” In 2005, her husband and son were shot and seriously wounded during a home invasion. Brenda wasn’t injured, but she became despondent with God over why her son – not herself – had been victimized and disabled. God told her to go back into the house, find some paper and draw “the face of a man and a woman. . . name it blood of my blood, flesh of my flesh.” After that first drawing, “I haven’t stopped, He gives me so many stories.” She also covered clothes, hats, shoes, lampshades, and cars with her distinctive painting style, and would often appear as a head-to-toe, walking work of Brenda Davis art.
In addition to mental health counseling, Brenda struggled with multiple sclerosis for about twenty years, and more recently a cancer diagnosis. Although cracked or broken-apart hearts are reappearing motifs, Brenda’s paintings have a redemptive, uplifting escape-to-a-rapturous-spiritual-world aspect that seems to have sprung from her unending earthly afflictions:
“I choose to believe that there’s no such thing as a birthday— its an ‘earth day,’ and everyday that you wake up and join the earth you have a day of celebration, celebrate because why? You woke up today, you’re able to walk, you’re able to talk, many people didn’t get up today, many people didn’t live to see another day.”
- Portraits of 'Outsider' and Visionary Artists - 2013-2018 | Photos by Fred Scruton
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