Nancy Davidson is an interdisciplinary artist, working primarily in sculpture and installation. Davidson grew up in Chicago and received a B.F.A. from the University of Illinois at Chicago. She received her M.F.A. from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1975 where she began her professional career, exhibiting in solo and group shows in 1977 and ‘78 including the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, the Art Institute of Chicago and the Walker Art Center. In 1979 Davidson relocated to New York.
During the mid-to-late eighties, she began a series of sculptural investigations into the feminized body as theater. The artist later described, “I was still interested in minimal forms, but I began to sense a need for more communication with the viewer”.
After 1992 Davidson refocused her work with sculpture, installation and photography, using inflated weather balloons to challenge the notions of contemporary monumental sculpture while simultaneously repurposing comedic tropes of bodily mass, fleshiness and beauty. In 1999-2000, The Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia exhibited Davidson’s installations and sculptures in the exhibition Breathless. The artist’s first video, named Breathless, was made as part of the immersive media for this show.
Davidson continued to exhibit widely including the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati, Ohio in 2001 and the Robert Miller Gallery in New York 2001. Her opening night fell on 9/11. Several years later this event triggered a new body of work.
Davidson witnessed the destruction of her neighborhood watching the World Trade Center towers falling from her studio window. Intuitively she began thinking about her past and personal mythology. As a child in the 1950s, Davidson was inspired by the cowgirl character and her can-do spirit. What began as a childhood attraction to this archetypal American figure became an irreverent reinvention, celebrating and critiquing popular culture, comic humor, and our society's fascination with the overblown and oversized. Over the next seven years Davidson produced a body of work including sculpture installations, photos, videos, and collages that focused on Western themes embedded in popular culture.
Creative Capital funded Davidson’s Cowgirl research and project. “Dustup” was exhibited at the Betty Cuningham Gallery, New York, in the fall of 2012 and an expanded version was exhibited at the Boca Museum of Art in Boca Raton, FL. in 2013.
Daylight Books published Cowgirl: Nancy Davidson, (distributed by D.A.P.) a hybrid book mixing cowgirl historical photographs and artifacts of past and present with photographs of Nancy Davidson’s sculptures based on her cowgirl research. Texts by a contemporary art historian and American West historians add to the mix with references to Rhinestone cowgirls, humor and the emergence of the cowgirl in American popular culture at the turn of the 20th century. The publication was funded by a grant from the Pollock Krasner-Foundation in 2015.
Davidson’s honors include the Guggenheim Fellowship (2014): Pollock Krasner Foundation (2001, 2015): Creative Capital (2005): Anonymous Was a Woman Award (1997): Yaddo Residency (1980,2003): Massachusetts Council of Arts, Individual Artists Fellowship (1981), NEA (1979). Davidson’s work has been reviewed in the New York Times, Art in America, Artforum, the Village Voice, the Brooklyn Rail, Der Spiegel and Art/Text.
Nancy Davidson has taught at a number of institutions including University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana (1977-1979), Williams College (1980 - 1984) and Purchase College SUNY (1984-2008).
More about Nancy:
SELECTED SOLO EXHIBITIONS
Hive, Krannert Art Museum, Champaign, Illinois.
p e r Sway, Locust Projects, Miami, Florida.
Ridin' High, Lord Ludd, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. NADA, Miami, LORD LUDD, Miami, Florida.
Boca Museum of Art, Boca Raton, Florida.
DUSTUP, Betty Cuningham Gallery, New York, New York.
CARNIVALEYES, Cleopatra's, New York, New York.
PLENTY, Regina Gouger Miller Gallery, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Howard Yzersky Gallery, Boston, Massachusetts.
NANCY DAVIDSON, Robert Miller Gallery, New York, New York.
CRYSTAL BLUE PERSUASION, Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, Ohio.
Vedanta Gallery, Chicago.
Ausser Atem, Kunstforum Beim Rathaus, Hallein, Austria.
NANCY DAVIDSON: BREATHLESS, Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.
NOBUTSABOUTIT, Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery, Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut.
NOBUTSABOUTIT: PHOTOGRAPHS BY NANCY DAVIDSON, Dorsky Gallery, New York.
THE BUDS AND THE BEADS, Neuberger Museum, State University of New York, Purchase.
CARNIVALEYES, Nova Sin Gallery, Prague, Czech Republic.
HOW’M I DOIN’?, Shoshana Wayne Gallery, Santa Monica, California.
NO END TO HER, Richard Anderson Fine Arts, New York.
BLOW UP, Richard Anderson Fine Arts, New York.
THEATER-CATALOG, Richard Anderson Fine Arts, New York.
Marianne Deson Gallery, Chicago.
Marianne Deson Gallery, Chicago.
Berkshire Museum, Pittsfield, Massachusetts.
Marianne Deson Gallery, Chicago.
Haber Theodore Gallery, New York.
Marianne Deson Gallery, Chicago.
N.A.M.E. Gallery, Chicago.
Selected Group Exhibitions
Extreme Measures, Weatherspoon Museum of Art, Greensboro, North Carolina.
At Large: Part 2 Reyes Projects, Birmingham, Michigan. Lights Up!, Artspace, New Haven CT. OOBS, Underdonk, Brooklyn, NY. NADA, Miami, Locust Projects, Miami Florida.
Deferred Vision, Spring Break, New York, New York.
She, Arts, Westchester, White Plains, New York.
NORTH OF MY BRAIN, SOUTH OF MY ASS: HATS AND SHOES BY ARTISTS,
Studio 10, Brooklyn, New York.
SKIN TRADE, P.P.O.W., New York.
LIFT SERIES, AMOA-Arthouse, Austin, Texas.
POP AND ITS PROGENY, Lyman Allyn Museum, New London, Connecticut.
VIDEO><SCULPTURE, Dorsky Gallery, Long Island City, New York.
LOVER, On Stellar Rays, New York.
WHAT “F” WORD? Cynthia Broan Gallery, New York.
HOMEGIRLS, Deutschvila, Salzburg, Austria.
COMPLICIT!, University of Virginia Art Museum, Charlottesville, Virginia.
GLOBAl, Westport Arts Center, Westport, Connecticut.
THE SUBJECTIVE FIGURE, Robert Miller Gallery, New York.
Gallerie Eboran, Two-person exhibition, Salzburg Austria.
FANTASY UNDERFOOT, 47TH CORCORAN BIENNIAL, Corcoran Museum of Art, Washington, D.C. (curated by Jonathan P. Binstock).
FEMININE PERSUASION, S0FA Gallery, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana.
FATHOMING, Southeast Center of Contemporary Art, Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
THE LIVING END, Boulder Museum for Contemporary Art, Boulder, Colorado.
ZERO- G: WHEN GRAVITY BECOMES FORM, Whitney Museum of American Art at Champion Stamford, Connecticut.
A ROOM WITH A VIEW, Sixth@Prince Fine Art, New York.
VIRTUAL LIGHT, Howard Yezerski Gallery, Boston, Massachusetts.
WILDFLOWERS, Katonah Museum of Art, Katonah, New York.
HUMANOID, Vedanta Gallery, Chicago.
FASHIONED, White Box, New York. Traveled: White Box, Philadelphia.
POP SURREALISM, Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, Ridgefield, Connecticut (curated by Ingrid Schaffner et al).
SCULPTURE-FIGURE-WOMAN, Landesgalerie, Oberosterreich Linz, Austria Traveled: Statische Kunstsammlungen, Chemnitz, Germany (curated by Barbara Wally).
FIGURING THE BODY: NANCY BOWEN AND NANCY DAVIDSON, Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery, Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut (curated by Nina Felshin).
ALTERNATIVE MEASURES, Castle Gallery, College of New Rochelle, New Rochelle, New York (curated by Sue Canning).
SPACES & FORMS: PART II, Maryland Institute, College of Art, Baltimore.
WIT, WHIMSY, HUMOR, Castle Gallery, College of New Rochelle, New Rochelle, New York.
LAUGHTER TEN YEARS AFTER, Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery, Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut. Traveled: Houghton House Gallery, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Geneva, New York; Beaver College Art Gallery, Glenside, Pennsylvania; Exquisite/Corpse Artsite, Burlington, Vermont; Morris and Helen Belkin Gallery, University of British Columbia, Vancouver,Canada; Elaine L.Jacob Gallery, Wayne StateUniversity, Detroit, Michigan (curated by Jo Anna Isaak).
CONCEPTUAL TEXTILES, John Michael Kohler Arts Center, Sheboygan, Wisconsin.
MAUX FAUX, Ronald Feldman Fine Art, New York.
BAD GIRLS WEST, Wight Gallery, University of California at Los Angeles.
ATHENA & ARACHNE, Apex Art, New York (curated by Casey Kaplan).
EMPTY DRESS, CLOTHING AS SURROGATE IN RECENT ART, Independent Curators Inc. New York. Traveled: Neuberger Museum, State University of New York, Purchase; Virginia Beach Center for the Arts, Virginia Beach, Virginia; University Gallery, University of North Texas, Denton; MacKenzie Art Gallery, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada; The Gallery/Stratford, Stratford, Ontario, Canada; Selby Gallery, Ringling School of Art and Design, Sarasota, Florida (curated by Nina Felshin).
ZONE, Sue Spaid Gallery, Los Angeles.
OUTSIDE POSSIBILITIES, Rushmore Estate, Woodbury, New York.
PHYSICAL RELIEF, Bertha and Karl Leubsdorf Art Gallery, Hunter College, New York.
TWO ARTISTS, Marilyn Pearl Gallery, New York.
STAINED SHEET/HOLY SHROUD, Krygier/Landau, Los Angeles.
POST BOYS/GIRLS, Artists Space, New York.
WORKS ON PAPER, Shea and Beker, New York.
DRAWINGS, Germans van Eck, New York.
ALTERNATIVE SPACES, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago.
America Haus, Stuttgart, Germany.
WORKS ON PAPER, Museum of Fine Arts, Springfield, Massachusetts.
WORKS ON PAPER, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York.
INVITATIONAL, Pam Adler, New York.
CHICAGO / KARLSRUHE, Karlsruhe, West Germany.
NEW DIMENSIONS: SURFACE, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago.
100 YEARS-100 ARTISTS, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago.
FOUR PAINTERS, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
WORKS ON PAPER, Art Institute of Chicago.
Delahunty Gallery, Dallas, Texas.
TEN PAINTERS, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota.
CURRENT CONCERNS, Museum of Art, University of Iowa, Iowa City.
Pollock Gallery, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
A.C.T. Gallery, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Crocker Art Gallery, Sacramento, California.
ABSTRACT ART IN CHICAGO, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago.
John Doyle Gallery, Chicago.
THE MEMBERS OF N.A.M.E., N.A.M.E. Gallery, Chicago.
TWO ARTISTS N.A.M.E. Gallery, Chicago.
CHICAGO AND VICINITY EXHIBITION, Art Institute of Chicago.
GRANTS AND AWARDS
2015 - Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant.
2014 - John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship.
2010 - Pilchuck Artist Resident, Seattle, Washington.
2005 - Creative Capital Artist Grant.
2003 - YADDO Residency Artist Fellowship & MACDOWELL Residency Artist Fellowship.
2001 - POLLOCK-KRASNER Foundation Grant.
1997 - Anonymous was a Woman Award.
1996 - DJERASSI Residency Artist Fellowship.
1984 - Completion Grant, Massachusetts Council of the Arts.
1981 - Individual Artist Fellowship, Massachusetts Council of the Arts.
1980 - YADDO Residency Artist Fellowship.
1979 - Individual Artist Fellowship, National Endowment for the Arts.
M.F.A., School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
B.F.A., University of Illinois at Chicago Circle, Chicago.
B.E., Northeastern Illinois State University, Chicago.