Aug. 11 2009 12:00 AM

Exhibit celebrates couples shared lifelong love of art

Talking with Bob and Marilyn Davis in front of the East Lansing Public Art Gallery last Saturday, it was obvious the couple is nothing like the painting Bob Davis was describing.

In muted colors, Davis has created an all-too-realistic depiction of a distant husband and wife, stripped to their skivvies on a hot summer day. "This one I call Together and Apart is modeled after an uncle and aunt of mine, who it always struck me were married but they really werent together," Davis said.

Bob and Marilyn have always been together — since they were 5 years old. Their parents, who were friends, first introduced them. Now in their 80s, the couple is showing together again at the gallery in the Hannah Community Center, possibly for the last time.

Supporters, family and friends praised the work of 83-year-old Marilyn Davis and 86-year-old Bob Davis during the opening reception of their "His and Hers" exhibit.

The show, which runs through July 28, celebrates the work of these lifelong artists and art enthusiasts. "The interest in art goes back to the very beginning for both of us,” Bob Davis said. “I mean, weve been going to galleries since we were children.

"I dont think its something that brought us together, but its definitely something weve nurtured and has provided us with a lot of travel experience and opportunities.”

With their first show in 15 years, the Davises are excited to show their craft together again.

Bob Davis’ work includes portraits and what he calls “tandems.” "I started with the idea of there being opposites, but then I decided there was nothing in the world that was completely opposite — not black, not white, not male, not female. So I started calling them ‘tandems,’" he said.

One tandem calling for the minds inquiry is a giant depiction of theoretical-physicist Albert Einstein sharing the canvas with clown Emmett Kelly. Davis’ inspiration for the painting was learning of Einsteins search for a unified theory of everything. "I said to myself, Can you really have a theory of everything?’" Davis said. "I dont think Emmett Kelly would say you can have a theory of laughter, joy, grief and happiness. So I decided to paint them as a tandem."

As for his portraits, Davis, who taught psychology at Michigan State University before retirement, said they offer a microscopic look into the minds of his subjects. He looks for character, and the way the subject is portrayed depends on how much freedom Davis feels the model holds in his or her life.

Marilyn Davis began painting at age 8. When the young artist began bringing her paintings to school, a teacher named Ms. Creaser admired her talent and started mentoring her as an artist.

The two paintings that caught the eye of her teacher are now on display in a glass case at as part of the exhibit. "I dont know how Ive kept them so long,” Marilyn Davis said. “Probably my mother saved them or something.”

Davis is also showing a selection of Deka dyes on silk, a process little understood by Saturday’s crowd.

"I treat it like watercolor; you stretch the silk on the frame, and then you draw your design and outline it with Guta, which keeps the paint from running. And then you wash it," Davis explained.

"With water?" an audience member asked. "Mm-hmm, its dye;" she replied, laughing.

The crowd at Saturday’s reception stretched across generations; and some in attendance shared that they and others had work by the Davises in their own homes.

Although the couple claims this is their final show, Gyvette Robinson, director of the East Lansing Public Art Gallery, said she plans on convincing them otherwise. "Theyre calling it the sunset exhibit, but I feel it might be the beginning of a few more," she said.

‘His and Hers’

by Bob & Marilyn Davis East Lansing Public Art Gallery, 819 Abbot
Road, East Lansing Hours: 6 a.m. – 8 p.m. Monday – Friday 8 a.m. – 8
p.m. Saturday Noon – 8 p.m. Sunday (517) 241-9230