ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: Printmaker Bradley Davenport finds purpose in process
Goshen News - 12/1/2018
Dec. 01--SOUTH BEND
Nearly five years ago to the day, Bradley Davenport experienced an episode.
Then 24 years old, Davenport's vehicle sideswiped a tractor-trailer while traveling along U.S. 20. In the throes of psychosis, he then led police on a high-speed chase beginning in LaPorte and ending near Michigan City, at times driving in the opposite lane, a news report indicates.
With the vehicle eventually spun out and blocked, a delusional Davenport punched in the face a police officer who attempted to restrain him. A Taser was employed, an eventual apprehension and admittance into a regional hospital's psychiatric unit followed.
Shortly after the episode, and avoiding conviction, Davenport was clinically diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder -- what amounts, in his case, to schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder, he explained.
It's an element, a part of his being, relayed without prompt.
"I do want to embrace my mental illness and channel that into my work," he said from his South Bend studio.
Davenport, 29, is primarily a printmaker and photographer, leading operations at Mosaic Studios & Gallery, a community workspace and curated gallery, located at 115 E. Cripe St. Displayed around the studio portion of the space -- what was formerly a medical office -- are Davenport's pieces, including a portrait of his serviceman brother and a much smaller downed matador from his middle school days.
In his work, the South Bend native mainly employs four print techniques: relief printing (where ink is applied to surfaces but not recessed areas), serigraphy (silk-screening), lithography (a chemical process on stone, "kind of like analog photography, but hand-drawn," he said) and intaglio, essentially the inverse of relief prints.
"In terms of the imagery, when I'm in the throes of psychosis, I feel like I'm in multiple places at once," he explained. "And when I take a picture -- all my work is photo-based -- I kind of take one exposure and make multiple exposures inside of the camera. I kind of relate that to what I feel when I'm psychotic."
Within Mosaic's roughly 30-foot-by-20-foot garage studio sit multiple presses, drying racks, inks, heat guns, brayers (rollers), printing blocks, hung works and other assorted items amassed over a 10-year period.
"I've just been collecting it and keeping it in the garage and waiting for an opportunity," he said.
Davenport's chance surfaced about two years when his family found Mosaic's building -- one in need of serious electrical, plumbing and structural renovations.
"We've always known (art) is God's given talent for Bradley, and that's the direction he should go because it's what he's passionate about and that's what he's good at," said Davenport's mother, Cathy. Along with her husband, Cathy purchased the building, and the family began its roughly yearlong transformation. "So we wanted to encourage that. We never fought it, because I don't think he would be happy doing anything else."
The public is invited to access tools and materials for $100 a month, with Davenport offering his assistance to anyone who seeks it. Local creatives such as Lauren Steinhofer, "Terrible Tony" Hilliard, Russell Frantom and Alyson Phillips, he said, can be found in the space.
"I don't want to sit in a room alone with a painting. I want to be around other people. I would go insane as a painter, more so than I already am," he said. "... There's a lot of stigma around mental illness. I don't think it needs to be that way."
In the adjacent gallery, rotating exhibits are installed, including tonight's opening of a monoprint collection from artists Joe Segura, Laurie Rousseau, Ramiro Rodriguez and Rachel Welling.
"Printmaking, more than any other art form, is community-oriented because not everyone can afford a $4,000-$5,000 press. We've come to together to facilitate or accommodate each other. ... We work mostly independently, but we collaborate and so on," he said about the handful of other artists sharing the space.
The collective "jockeys for time," he said, with no static schedule of when portions of the studio will be used.
"I don't care too much about imagery; I care about how I make it. It's conceptual," Davenport said of his process, adding, for him, it's more about the methodical steps taken toward creation rather than any singular result although at times "there's an element of instant gratification and an element of seeing your plan come through."
"What prints do is it's not a reproduction, it's not a facsimile; it's considered an original work of art," he said. "It's kind of like making a mold: you don't consider the mold an original. You consider the actual molding the original. What that does is it democratizes it, so it kinda belongs to everyone -- it doesn't belong to one person. It belongs to people who buy into the process."
Davenport's leap into printmaking stemmed from his days as an IU South Bend fine arts student.
"No one else really does it. It's a niche. My professor, Alan Larkin, he introduced it to me. I was really more interested in finding a mentor in school than focusing on any particular field," he said, citing Larkin as "a tremendous talent and asset to the community."
Davenport noted he sank his focus into honing the craft, with little enthusiasm for required general-education classes.
"One of the things about Brad -- you can never fault him for this -- is he's a person who was prepared to work hours and hours and hours," said Larkin, who taught drawing and printmaking at the college for 37 years and is an accomplished, award-winning independent artist.
"So frequently the case with Brad, he would just be in the print shop. He'd be in there doing his work, and when anyone came in, he would assist them if they needed help. At the beginning, this was sometimes not always great because Brad was learning himself. But, he quickly became quite adept at doing processes, and he strengthened his own understanding by helping everyone there."
Although a disinterest in peripheral studies led Davenport to leaving IU South Bend around his senior year, his efforts and knowledge gained aren't lost on his mentor.
"... I have vivid recollections of many, if not most, of Brad's pieces; they were exceptional. They're exceptional works. He did a series of transfer lithographs, portraits, that were quite remarkable -- very large pieces that he drew on paper and then would offset onto lithographic stones."
Part of the first show at Mosaic last year, Davenport was able to exhibit his work. His hope is to prepare a show -- it will take about a year, he said -- of zoetropes, a type of pre-film animation device.
"I want to make them wall-mounted so people can take them home with them, hang them on the wall, and use them whenever they need to," he said.
If Larkin's word is bond, Davenport's dedication will likely surface more publicly in the coming year.
"Sometimes he would be difficult to deal with, but at the same time, he's certainly one of the most dedicated, serious people I've ever worked with there at the school, and I worked there for 37 years, I guess.
"That's my record there at IUSB," Larkin said, "so he's really a fascinating guy."
Geoff Lesar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 574-533-2151, ext. 307.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Taylor Street Arts Studios Artist Reception
WHEN: 6-10 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 1
WHERE: Mosaic Studios & Gallery, 115 E. Cripe St., South Bend
COST: Admission is free.
Mosaic Studios & Gallery will exhibit monoprints from the Taylor Street Art Studios, featuring Joe Segura, Laurie Rousseau, Ramiro Rodriguez and Rachel Welling. Complimentary alcohol will be served, with live music by Anival Fausto. For more information, visit toucan-spinach-fjda.squarespace.com.
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