Morehead-Cain Foundation sculpture reflects ‘Western Zen’ sensibility

November 19, 2013 

Davy’s work is essentially a “kind of collaboration between artist and nature,” writes Shana Nys Dambrot.


The Morehead-Cain Foundation, home of the oldest, most prestigious merit scholarship program in the United States, has a new sculpture on the second-floor landing in the east wing of the Morehead Planetarium Building created by alumnus Woods Davy ’72 of Venice, Calif.

For the past 30 years, Davy has worked with natural elements, usually incorporating various types of stone in fluid balancing acts that reflect the artist’s “Western Zen” sensibility. He might be thought of as among the first “green” Postmodern artists. In fact, he comes from a long tradition of post ’60s artists, who, either directly or just by their practical sensibility, engage Eastern or Zen notions of oneness with nature, organic systems of change as engines of art composition, and non-disruptive respect for natural material in unaltered states.

Art writer Shana Nys Dambrot observed that Davy’s work is essentially a “kind of collaboration between artist and nature,” one in which the artist “prefers to cooperate with the pre-existing uniqueness and objecthood of his materials. The undeniably serene, contemplative chord struck by these works makes it difficult to refrain from discussing them in spiritual terms.”

In the “Cantamar” series, Davy has carefully selected stones that have been rounded and smoothed by the tumbling effects of the Pacific, at a beach in Mexico by that name (“Cantamar” translates to “song of the sea”).

Davy’s sculptural combinations of these stones creates cantilevered arcs which appears to float like clouds, or roll like the waves that shaped them. They illuminate the poetry of nature. As Holly Meyers remarked in the Los Angeles Times, there is “something thrilling about a work that appears to defy its own natural properties,” while at the same time one can appreciate the work’s “meditative reverence.”

When reflecting on his experience as a Morehead Scholar, Davy remembers the support of the foundation as he was first starting out: “There was this prevailing confidence back then that everything was going to work out,” he said. “We did what we believed in, and to have (former executive director) Mebane Pritchett’s support was a great feeling.”

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