Artist Victor Davson shares nostalgic memories of distinct, personal heritage in Lederer Gallery exhibit

“Luminaria” is a collection by artist Victor Davson that sets out to capture individual experiences and memories from his childhood. The art is abstract and evocative of complex thought and feeling. Inside one small room are decades of one man’s labor of love.

The creative work of Victor Davson (pictured above) was put on display in the Bertha V.B. Lederer Gallery on Wednesday Jan. 31. The collection entitled “Luminaria” explores Davson’s  Guyanese culture in areas of music, his childhood and even weather. His work will be available to view until March 8. (Elizabeth Jacobs/Design & Layout Editor

The Bertha V.B. Lederer Gallery in Brodie Hall is hosting an expansive series of artwork that captures an interesting glimpse of Davson’s time growing up in Guyana. The exhibt will run from Wednesday Jan. 31 to March 8. 

Davson did not move to the United States until the 1970s. His art is heavily influenced by anti-colonialist sentiments, and is inspired by the beautiful and diverse cultures of the African diaspora. 

One piece, “Dub Factor,” is influenced by the Jamaican genre of dub music, which is mainly comprised of remixes of already existing music. For this reason, “Dub Factor” is a collection of album covers that Davson has painted over and changed to reflect his artistic style. Familiar musicians like Nina Simone, Scott Joplin and Marvin Gaye have been given a surreal element in this work.

“I add the material, I add information and out of that comes something new,” Davson said of his visual homage to the musical genre. The individual albums together make a striking image, each one standing out while still blending into one piece. There are elements of many different genres with a traditional Japanese wave in one and photorealistic hands hitting drums in another. 

The next series, the “Bad Cow Comin,’” refers to Davson’s childhood memory of a masquerade that occurred around Christmas. The piece depicts a performance by costumed men, one of whom dresses in a papier-mâché cow costume that Davson remembers with equal fear and excitement. Throughout the piece there are lines from the poetry of national hero and anti-colonialist Martin Carter. The lines chosen reflect community and generosity, as the line “who wants my shirt can have it,” displays.

The third collection of works, “Luminaria,” gives the gallery its name. One piece, also called “Bad Cow Comin,” includes the image of a dancer dressed in a costume full of glitter in an attempt to show the conditions in the African diaspora and the diversity of rituals and ceremonies. Glitter and light are integral and heavily used throughout this collection. Gold is especially utilized to mimic the light of the sun. 

“I grew up on the equator, where there was always this kind of light,” Davson said, describing the brightness of his collection. The glitter is arranged in a way that is consistent with Davson’s intense training, clearly attempting to depict certain elements of African culture or history. The glitter itself is wild, filled with butterflies and sequins. In some cases, it is bursting off the canvas, showing the liveliness in these costumes and these people. 

Art history major senior Meiko Palazzo, who was present at the opening, appreciated the diversity of the artwork on display. 

“The galleries do a really good job of bringing in artists of different backgrounds and telling very different stories,” she said. “I think that it’s really important for people to see that in art they can come and experience new things.” 

Palazzo especially praised gallery director Cynthia Hawkins for bringing the collection to the attention of the college. Besides the works by Davson, Gallery B2 features some student drawn self-portraits.

Davson’s broad range of material provides an immersive, personal look at the Guyanese culture as remembered from a child’s perspective. This allows all the of art to connect with even the average viewer and to maintain a sense of wonder and freedom, despite dealing with tough themes.