Visual artist Jennifer Davis is well-known on the internet for her whimsical and imaginative drawings and paintings (previously here). But in one of her latest series, Davis takes her trademark renderings and has paired them with an unlikely match, paper shooting targets.
In a conversation with Beautiful/Decay, the Minneapolis-based artist explains the history of the series, starting with inspiration for a printed target seen in an architecture/lifestyle magazine. “…I learned that I could get enormous packs of different colored targets from a gun shop for under $20. I started off thinking more about the symbolism of guns/violence/innocent victims/”badguys”/etc. (one of the first targets I made was called “Riddled”- I cut an intricate pattern of tiny holes all over the target.)” Davis then began using the colored paper targets as a base, decorating them with hand-drawn and painted intricately unique characters. The series evolved as Davis began taking commissions and painting other people’s ideas and applying them to the targets. “I started doing a lot of commissions, which morphed the way I was thinking about them. It is a fun exercise for me to paint someone else’s vision- it has stretched the way I think about the targets. I no longer relate them only to violence. I think about each one differently and it is interesting for me to play with adding whimsy or beauty to such a symbol. I am transforming them into something new.”
When asked about the inherent quality of violence in the base material, Davis responds with a heartfelt and measured answer. “While I was in the middle of making 80 bazillion new targets the Newtown school shooting happened and I was devastated. I wasn’t sure if I should continue with these because I didn’t want to be associated with promoting violence in any form.” Because of the time and energy spent reworking the material, however, the targets are quite obviously freed from the violent potential and association, which may have also inspired Davis to eventually continued the series. “I was encouraged by the curator at The Devos Art Museum (and many others) to continue making these pieces for my show. People seem to “get” what I am doing and I have not received any negative feedback.”