Recently, my wife and I had the good fortune to come across the work of Suzi Davidoff:
Suzi Davidoff is an artist based in the Chihuahuan desert of west Texas, creating drawings, paintings, prints and collaborative installations that explore themes of structure and perception in the natural world. A series of walks or hikes is the genesis for much of her work. In addition to charcoal, oil, gold leaf and ink, Davidoff uses found organic materials. Moss, clay, cochineal, earth, and lichen collected on her walks are rubbed into the surface of the paper and panels, creating a physical connection between personal experience and finished work.
“Themes of structure and perception” is a resonant phrase for me. As regular readers of Traces know, I am in a continuous state of wonderment that most of us contrive to move through this world of stunning grandeur and intimate beauty as if it were ours to ponder for eternity, and not in fact a gift for the passing moment. To perceive is our great challenge, whether we choose to undertake it or not. So carpe diem, friends.
And then there’s that combination, structure and perception, as they relate to the natural world. The cultural anthropologist Clifford Geertz once wrote the following: “Believing, with Max Weber, that man is an animal suspended in webs of significance he himself has spun, I take culture to be those webs, and the analysis of it to be therefore not an experimental science in search of law but an interpretative one in search of meaning. It is explication I am after …” (The Interpretation of Cultures, pp. 4-5). Elsewhere he defines culture as simply “the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves” (448). What is nature, then, as a practical matter, but a story we tell ourselves about that which is not ourselves? You know, here’s a forest. One person tells this story: natural resource. Another person tells a different story: dwelling place of spirits.
Because our perception is and always will be limited, finite, blinkered, we collectively have this incredible opportunity, namely, to share with each other the structure that each of us sees in the world. Suzi Davidoff is offering us her perception of a landscape that you and I would never see, except through her art.
All images © Suzi Davidoff.