ClampArt is very pleased to announce Jen Davis’ exhibition “Eleven Years,” which coincides with the release of the monograph of the same title from Kehrer Verlag (Hardcover, 120 pages, 10.9 x 9.2 inches, $50). This is the artist’s first solo show in New York City.
Jen Davis explained to an interviewer in 2013 about her weight: “I looked this way. This is what I knew, so this is who I was.”
Overweight from an early age, Davis knew no different, but by 2002, she began to reflect on what it meant to weigh so much more than any of her peers. Originally employing a 4 x 5 view camera, she started the painful process of turning her lens on herself, exploring not only her own body image, but also addressing broader societal standards of beauty, and how those rigid strictures impact individual lives.
Challenging traditional expectations of female representation, the series continued for eleven years (hence the title), as Davis completed a BFA program at Columbia College Chicago and an MFA program at Yale University in New Haven before moving to New York City.
Commenting upon the formal richness of her self portraits, Davis says: “In retrospect, [I was subconsciously constructing] images that were compelling to look at that would be seductive. The beauty of the picture was in the light and in the use of color—it was beauty that I could control, a world of beauty that I myself created and inhabited. In a way what I was doing was seducing myself. I couldn’t necessarily identify with the idea of someone seeing me as ‘beautiful,’ but I could accept that the pictures that I created and inhabited were. It was a very contradictory experience.”
The photographs in this powerful body of work bravely reveal the artist’s desire for love and intimacy, and track the treacherous path to self-acceptance.
Finally, in 2011, while reviewing her portfolio in Syracuse during a prestigious Light Work residency, Davis had a stark realization that for the decade she had been working on her self portraiture project, her body had not at all changed. Just a few short months later, she elected to have Lap-Band surgery. Now, thanks to the surgery and a healthful diet paired with regular exercise, Jen Davis’ body is drastically transformed. Beginning a new chapter of her life, Davis’ eleven year’s of reflection and introspection expertly bring into focus everyone’s passing sorrow and loneliness, in addition to our common insecurities and sometimes suffocating fears of inadequacy. Jen Davis’ story is both a personal one and something strikingly universal.
Davis’ work has been exhibited extensively both nationally and abroad. She is the recipient of a large number of distinguished awards, and her work is part of the permanent collections of many major museums including the Art Institute of Chicago; the Cleveland Museum of Art; the Columbus Museum of Art; the Library of Congress, Washington, DC; the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Milwaukee Art Museum; the Snite Museum of Art, University of Notre Dame; and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.