In painting, Asheville artist Nan Davis finds path to self-acceptance

Jason Sandford

Jason Sandford is a reporter, writer, blogger and photographer interested in all things Asheville.

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Nan Davis

Nan Davis finds freedom in “flinging paint.”

That’s how Davis happily describes her painting approach. She clearly sees her painting as “part of my journey to accept myself as I am,” which in turn has been a life-long effort. And stroke by acrylic stroke, she’s making her way.

Davis will invite the community to see her progress through a significant solo show and reception on Oct. 11 in the Walker Arts Center’s John M. Crawford Art Gallery on the campus of Asheville School.

Her start

Davis grew up in Greenville, S.C., and then moved to Atlanta, where she lived until 1994. With a long-held interest in art, Davis earned a degree in fine art from Georgia State University, “but at that time, I didn’t have any serious thought about how I would use it. When it got down to me having to earn a living, art was not the first thing I could rely on.”

Davis arrived in Asheville after landing a job as marketing manager for Milkco. The milk processing and packaging plant in West Asheville is a wholly owned subsidiary of Ingles. She held that job, one she says she loved, for 20 years.

But like many a bill-paying job, there’s not necessarily much creativity involved. The grind can be draining. So Davis found herself falling back on her art.

“Painting or drawing is such a great release. It’s fun, it’s color, you hold something in your hands,” she says. “I love scratching in the paint.”

Her art

Davis promised herself she would pursue her art full time once she left her nine-to-five. Over the past four years, she built up a body of work she says she’s proud of. She’s also found patrons along the way.

But the past year has been about pushing herself to go ever deeper “to force myself to paint and paint and paint,” she says. “It’s a pretty solitary journey.”

Davis calls her work contemporary art, “which in my mind means anything goes.” Though she doesn’t consider herself a landscape artist, that’s a place she often begins. From there, she adds her acrylic paints, texture and weight. She’s not afraid of abstract territory. And more recently, she’s occasionally decided “to throw sand or string in” as she continues to experiment.

The push and pull of the creative process is something Davis continues to feel. In a painting session, “I go back and forth between being afraid to try,” she says, battling self-doubt and worries about not being original, or not creating marketable work.

“This whole thing is about being free to express yourself,” Davis says. “As I become more confident in that, I want to take things and really run with them.”

“If that’s something that I can pass along as part of my journey, then maybe that’s my purpose.”

Davis and Asheville School Fine Arts will host the opening of Davis’ solo show, “The Way I See It,” from 5:30-7:30 p.m. on Oct. 11 in the Walker Art Center’s John M. Crawford Art Gallery. It will remain up through Oct. 31. Gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday through Friday, or by appointment on Saturday. Call Nan Davis, 828-774-9054, for questions or to make an appointment. Twenty-five percent of show sales will be donated to Pisgah Legal Services.

Jason Sandford

Jason Sandford is a reporter, writer, blogger and photographer interested in all things Asheville.

  • 1

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