Arts Galleries

Cover Artist: Heather Davis

The French Broad in Asheville. Heather Davis, artist

By Gina Malone

Artists in all fields are often asked why they do what they do. Painter Heather Davis minces no words when she explains her own proclivity to create. “If I didn’t try to give birth to these images in my mind,” she says, “I would probably need to be institutionalized.”

Art was a natural direction for her, coming from an artistic family. “Several of us are professional artists,” she says. “My mother was a recognized quilter whose work is in the permanent collections of museums in the US and abroad. My cousins, Tom and Dianne Starr, have been husband-and-wife potters since they graduated from college in the ‘70s. Starr Pottery in Hanover, PA has been a guiding light for me.”

Encaustic collagraph. Heather Davis, artist

Davis’ father was a professor of Economics at Cornell University, and, though she says it was more of a stretch than art, she built a career around corporate finance and investment management. When 9/11 shook the world at large and the financial world in particular, the asset management and insurance company for which she worked as an institutional investor wanted to develop an investment management presence outside of New York in case there was another attack. “I volunteered to come, and I was actually the first investment management person on the ground in Charlotte,” says Davis. “We built the trading desk and the investment function in Charlotte and, over time, it grew to be the largest investment management area in the company. All along, I was pursuing my art practice: taking classes and working nights and weekends.”

Davis paints in cold wax and oil, but mainly in encaustics, or hot wax painting, an ancient practice using pigments and an organic blend of beeswax and damar tree resin. She often collages elements into her work including vintage architectural plans and specs, old maps and newspaper clippings, with “crumbling infrastructure” being a favorite theme. “The durability and archival quality of the encaustic, together with its hazy translucency, help me to tell my tales of architecture, infrastructure and time,” she states on her website. “Having spent a 30-year career as a professional investor in infrastructure and commercial real estate, I am steeped in admiration for these complex creations. I wonder about how they will stand the passage of time and evolve to meet the needs of our future generations.”

Her encaustic collagraphs are made using encaustic medium as a print matrix into which she uses a variety of found objects to create surface patterns. After an intaglio printing process, she uses the finished print as the underpainting for the piece which can be either a cold wax and oil or an encaustic painting.

Vintage Plans 2 (left) and Vintage Plans 4 (right). Heather Davis, artist

Her Pompeii series features encaustic paintings based on her observations from trips to Pompeii. “Each painting is on birch panel upon which I first mounted a photograph that I took there,” says Davis. “Layers and layers of encaustic paint and medium are on top of the photo, and then I carved into the wax and used oil paint in the incisions.” She also has a Vintage Plans series using vintage architectural plans.

Planning new pieces begins in her head, Davis says. She describes it as being “haunted by the imagery of my unborn artwork,” and says, “I am consciously and subconsciously trying to give birth to it. It haunts me until I can get it out of my head and onto a panel or paper.”

Encaustic collagraph. Heather Davis, artist

Working in the investment world was a fun career, says Davis, but working at her art is the most fun she’s ever had. Throughout the pandemic, she and her husband have been living on 60 acres in eastern Tennessee, raising cattle and goats and enjoying the sight of ponds with koi and exotic ducks. “It has been the perfect refuge,” she says.

She recently purchased three connected buildings in downtown Asheville where she plans to pay homage to Andy Warhol with her own space called The Factory. “We will have artist studios and a gallery where we will sell local and regional artwork,” says Davis.

Heather Davis Studio + Gallery is located at Pink Dog Creative, Studio 102, in Asheville’s River Arts District. To learn more, visit HeatherDavis.studio or HeatherDavis.com on the web, or find her on Facebook and Instagram. Her work is available at her studio and at Marquee.

1 Comment

  • Loved reading about your art. Lived for 16 yrs. in the Asheville area – have been gone now for 18 yrs. Miss the Arts & Crafts of Western NC a lot.

Leave a Comment