Willis ``Bing'' Davis
-- Dayton artist and educator

   Bing Davis, former chairman of the art department at Central State University in Wilberforce, is Dayton's best-known visual artist. He is primarily a painter, but also works in other media.
Born: 1938 in South Carolina, his family moved to East Dayton when he was two weeks old.

Best-known works: `Ancestral Spirit Dance' paintings, clay vessels, ritual masks and sculptures of found objects he calls his ``Urban Spirit Catchers.''

Family: he was the fourth child in a family of six children. His parents started out assharecroppers in South Carolina, but moved to Dayton two weeks after Davis was born.

Davis' parents divorced when he was 6.His wife, Audrey, is an elementary school teacher in Trotwood. He has a son, Tim, and a daughter, Nia.

On why he stayed in Dayton: ``It's been the right place for me. The confidence thiscommunity has given me allows me to go anywhere in the world and feel that same confidence. The quality of life is also good here. I don't feel isolated at all. There are talented musicians, dancers and other fine people here to interact with.''

"Ode to Two Dayton Poets" -- Paul Lawrence Dunbar and David Matthews.

Davis' work:

Varying media: Davis is primarily a painter, but he also works with clay sculture and "found-object" assemblages. ``I'm still pushing and trying new things. I only started doing my found-object sculptures about four years ago,'' he said in a 1995 interview. ``Playing several instruments is generally a plus for a musician, but beinga swing man isn't so acceptable for an artist. I've been told many times that I could have been a great painter if only I'd given up the clay, but I've alsoheard that I could have been a fine sculptor if only I'd stop painting."

Influences: His first African pilgrimage, in 1973, had a profound and lasting effect that he continues to explore in his `Ancestral Spirit Dance' series of paintings and drawings. With shapes and colors from African textiles as the more soothing backdrops, the works swirl with movement motifs that combine African religious ceremonies and American confusion, smoke, steam and breath.

Themes: Davis has said that if he made several hundred pieces a year, most of them would deal with the same few themes that have always interested him: ``Praise to the elders who've given so much, concepts from traditional society that we need in contemporary society, and the passages of young people from childhood to adulthood during puberty. Magic is also there. I believe there are things floating around that you can contact if you're sympathetic to them.''

File created: 12-20-95
Sources: DDN 5-28-95