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Joy Davis to Spend Two Months as Artist-in-Residence in New Mexico

By Andrea Estrada

Joy Davis, above, was an invited artist at this year’s I Madonnari Italian Street Painting Festival. The finished painting, below, shows two Tibetan refugees in conversation, with the Boudhanath Temple in the background.


This summer, Joy Davis is following her passion all the way to New Mexico.
An academic personnel analyst in the College of Letters and Science, Davis is spending June and July at the Santa Fe Art Institute as an artist-in-residence courtesy of a fellowship from the Warhol Foundation.
A painter and UCSB alumna with a bachelor’s degree in art, Davis will be continuing work that combines photo-realism with traditional Nepali and Tibetan motifs and styles. The acrylic and gold leaf paintings on silk often juxtapose the sacred imagery of traditional Buddhist thangka paintings with the mundane details of modern life in that region.
“I’m painting people realistically from photographs I’ve taken, and combining the portraits with original thangka paintings in the background,” Davis said in an interview shortly before she left for Santa Fe. “The painting tells a greater story than the photo itself can tell.”
Davis, who has studied the Tibetan and Nepali languages, Himalayan art history and religions, and traditional thangka painting techniques, said she is thrilled to have the opportunity to devote two full months to her art. “It’s like a sabbatical. I can step out of my regular life and focus on painting,” she said. “It’s a small residency program — only 10 people at any given time — and there are no stipulations on what we produce while we are there.”
A painter since she was 9 years old, Davis did a lot of digital art when she came to UCSB. After graduating in 2002, she took time off to travel and volunteer, and ended up in a rehabilitation center for disabled children in Tibet. A thangka painting school was located just down the street from the center, and Davis began visiting there after work every day.
“I found a teacher and started studying Tibetan painting,” she explained, “and it really got me back into painting. Since then I’ve been focusing on the art of that part of the world. I feel passionate about it — that people should see it and we should take care of it.”
Davis demonstrated her artistic skill to local audiences when she designed the community mandala that the University Art Museum presented in conjunction with the Dalai Lama’s visit to UCSB in April. She also participated in the annual I Madonnari Italian Street Painting Festival at the Santa Barbara Mission over Memorial Day weekend.
An invited artist for the second year in a row, this year she decided to expand on her current work. Her I Madonnari painting — done all in pastels — showed two Tibetan refugees in conversation, with the Boudhanath Temple in the background.
Working solo for the entire weekend, she finished at 9:30 on Monday night. “I had two young boys holding a flashlight for me,” she said.