The featured American Folk Artist of the week is Vestie Davis!  Vestie Davis was born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1903.  He moved to New York City at age 25, and although he did some drawing as a child, he didn’t become a professional artist until his forties.  His professional life until that point was eclectic, including work as an organist, newsstand manager, undertaker, and even a circus barker.

Davis was self taught–having only taken a few classes in cartooning–and he became inspired to paint after passing an art gallery in Brooklyn.  Upon viewing a painting of an American farm scene, he realized that he, too, could paint like that.  His work consisted primarily of his favorite scenes in New York City and Coney Island.  Reportedly, Davis was concerned that some of his favorite views in the city would change with time, so he recorded them by painting from photographs.  He often included many images of people within his paintings, explaining that the more people he added, the faster they would sell.  He also believed that people wanted paintings of things and places that were familiar to them.  His graphic colors and cartoonish, two-dimensional images have a whimsical, childlike feel, reminiscent of childhood art classes.  I personally appreciate the familiar feelings of summer vacations when looking at his paintings of the boardwalk and beach, where the reality of life is put on hold and you’re free to escape, enjoy beautiful places, and pursue only joy for a few fleeting days.  I believe his paintings were popular not only for their familiarism but with their escapism as well.     

Vestie Davis passed away in 1978, and his work has been included in many American Folk Art collections, galleries, publications, and museums.











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