Personal Space

A Look Inside Phoenix Painter Lee Davis' Art Lab

Most Phoenicians face a frustrating commute to and from work, but artist Lee Davis accesses his workplace with a shuffle from his bedroom to the kitchen (can't bypass the coffee) and a couple paces to the front entrance room of his home.

The cookie-cutter orderliness of his neighborhood makes for an unusual home for Lee's bold designs and out-of-the-box creations. Just a few steps into his home, these are brought to life in his relaxed and comfortable studio.

Functionality and flexibility were what Davis and his wife most looked for when they originally searched for a house. "When we looked for a place, we were also looking for a space where I can do my artwork," he explains. "So, it's a little bigger than what I would actually want in a house, but it's nice because I don't have to keep looking for a place to do art. Now it's just one big roof."

Davis works in a variety of media, including wood cuts, linoleum blocks and inks, but over the past two years he's been most drawn to painting.

For inspiration, Davis avidly seeks out scientific journals and studies. After deviating into graphic design years ago, Davis returned to fine art in 2008 and eventually got into the vein of science. In developing his interpretations of the subject, he needed to figure out his own style.

"That was difficult actually," he says. "It started off with just doing little small things here or there... I was rusty from three or four years out of it, so I just kind of played around with it a little bit. It took me a while to get there, but I've been progressively working through that."

Lee says news regarding recent discoveries can be complicated and daunting to understand.

"It's very thorough, and so I typically read scientific magazines because they distill it down to something more palatable," Davis admits. "That's kind of what I do with my work. I try to have it so that it's interesting, but then there's a bit of theory behind it as well."

Displayed in the East and West galleries at eye lounge from June 15 to July 15 were Davis's latest exhibitions, "Objectify//Psyentifica."

Just one part of the dual exhibition, "Psyentifica" combined psychology and science to create poppy, eye-catching images of recent research developments. After learning that crabs have become more and more exposed to acidic waters, Davis created "Crab On Acid," showing a crustacean with chainsaws for pincers.

"Objectify" featured octopi's fascination with objects not found in their natural habitat (knives, grenades, spatulas, etc.) and invited the viewer to consider the potential of what the subjects are capable of doing with those objects.

"I chose to have them 'play' with their objects and learn its applications," Davis says. "It's up to the viewer to conclude the octopuses' applicable solutions. Much the same as when Prometheus gave man fire in Greek mythology. A lot can be read into both series."

Davis describes his illustrative and graphic works as approachable conceptual art: "It's approachable because you can look at it and say, 'Oh hey, it's an octopus with a gun.' Something like that. But then there's actually some depth to it once you actually look into it."

His home studio has much of the same elements. The studio space has what is most necessary to achieve his aims: a drawing board, notepads for sketching, paintbrushes, bottles of acrylic paint and massive canvases. An open window catches the northern sunlight, allowing him to either brighten the room by opening the shades or dim it for a softened exposure.

"When I'm really deep into a series, I'll just have canvas and some drop cloths down. It becomes this big production almost."

Even though working from home can be distracting, Davis considers himself lucky to be able to have his artwork within reach on a daily basis. "It's really great to have such a big space to work in like this where I can also keep it dynamic. I can move this, and I can make that. It's very convenient, sometimes too convenient. But it's nice to live in a space where I have that luxury. Keepin' it close to home."

Follow Jackalope Ranch on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Mary Richardson