Looking at my Grandfather’s Art Through New Eyes

Taking art history really opens your eyes to what is right in front of you. This includes everything from the art everywhere on campus to the art in your own home. I was home for a weekend and was able to look at all of the pieces hanging around my home, and I thought it would be interesting to try and analyze a few.

Although I don’t know very much about most of these works, there are three wood blocks prints done by my grandfather. My grandparents have lived in Corrales, New Mexico, and most of the prints made by Grandpa Paul are either images from his life there or inspired by Japan, where he traveled to learn how to do this style of printing.

Barranca de Corrales by Paul Davis

In this first print, Barranca de Corrales, you can see the Japanese influence in the flatter perspective and more simplified shapes, even though this is a depiction of the hill on which my grandparents live. The majority of the piece is black, white, or tan, with the only color being the sky and the figures going up the hill. The effect is to make the blue and the yellow of the sky seem even more vibrant, and makes the viewer wonder if the sun is just rising or setting to have such a bright, yellow horizon. The red and blue of the group climbing the hill draw your eye to them, but they are so small and indistinct that the focus of the piece is still on the skyline.

Hokusai’s World by Paul Davis

In the piece just to the left of this, Hokusai’s World, the Japanese influence is clear. With the iconic wave image from The Great Wave off Kanagawa by Hokusai in the foreground, bamboo and a bonsai tree in the mid-ground, and what looks like Mount Fuji in the background, this entire work seems like a dedication to Japanese culture and art. All of these environmental additions frame two figures fighting in the middle of the print with what seems to be bo staffs, a traditional Japanese weapon. The color palette is again very basic and shows off the details of the bonsai tree and wave. The patterns around the edge frame the central images, and are a unique addition to the print, unusual in both my grandfather’s work and in Japanese-style printing in general. This homage to Japan and the printing style is both simple and beautiful (although I may be a little biased).

Tiffany Hill: Dawn by Paul Davis

In the third and final piece of the three of Grandpa Paul’s prints we have hanging on our wall, Tiffany Hill: Dawn, we are back in New Mexico. It is an image inspired by what my grandfather does every morning he can: walk his dogs. Although this does show an aspect of his day, this is not a self-portrait, but instead a depiction of the friends he walks his dogs with. The colors are muted, with most of the piece filled with tan, representing the sandy desert that most of Corrales is. But there is still foliage, which fills up the sides of the print, and a town that is in the distance and seems to be the goal of the dog walkers. The dog walkers themselves are simplified human figures, one having a backpack and the other a Harley Davidson jacket. The dogs are even more simplified, just focusing on the essentials. This simplicity is probably a combination of medium restrictions, personal preference, and aesthetics and is consistent through all of his works.

My grandfather is a simple, usually quiet man (except for the occasional pun) who has lived a rich life and learned a ridiculous amount about a ridiculous number of subjects. He spends his days reading, watching soccer matches, and making prints. I am so glad that we are able to have his art hanging in our home.

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