Beginning January 30, the Appleton will present “Memories & Inspiration: The Kerry and C. Betty Davis Collection of African American Art,” a selection of 62 works amassed over 35 years by an ordinary working class couple. Often choosing artworks over material items and other creature comforts, Kerry, a retired mailman, and Betty, a former television news producer, have opted instead to live with drawings, paintings, prints and sculpture as their principal luxuries.
Their collection includes works by Romare Bearden, Elizabeth Catlett, Ernest T. Crichlow, Sam Gilliam, Loïs Mailou Jones, Jacob Lawrence, Gordon Parks and Alma Thomas, but Kerry and Betty do not search exclusively for well-known and/or documented artists. Rather, they focus on “the importance of gathering and preserving a spectrum of approaches to the black image in order to console the psyche and contribute to a more authentic articulation of the self.” The result is an eclectic gathering of works crossing different mediums, subjects, and styles by a group of artists of the African Diaspora who — in terms of training, experience and expression — are strikingly diverse but unified in their use of cultural and historical narratives.
As their collection has grown, so has their storehouse of memories of discovering new works of art, building friendships with artists, and conversing with museum professionals and other collectors in their home. The Davises have also continued to expose their collection to family, friends and church members who, while receptive to the fine arts, are unlikely to visit such local institutions as the High Museum of Art in Atlanta — prompting the artist Leon Nathaniel Hicks to refer to their residence as a museum in a home.
“Memories and Inspiration” brings together an awe-inspiring selection of works, but it is their personal resonance — their connection to the Davises’ hopes, passions and everyday lives — that gives the collection its unique power.
Online Talk with Kerry Davis and Kevin Sipp
Sunday, February 28, 2 p.m. via Zoom
Click here for event details.