Monday, March 11, 2024

The Iconic William Davis

William Davis at home in 2009

At Wilder Nightingale Fine Art in 2016

Bill Davis was the dean of Taos photographers who arrived in our art colony straight from 1967’s Summer of Love in San Francisco. He says he was never a hippy, but I’ve seen pictures that challenge that notion. Photography was Bill’s life. I don’t think he ever did anything else. He was a wonderful writer, too, something for which he was less known. He lived an artful life unflinchingly on his terms.

I don’t recall exactly how and when we met but it must have been shortly after we moved to Taos in 2003. For many years he was part of a photography salon that included Terry Thompson, Howard Green, Cris Pulos, Richard Niemeyer, and me along with the occasional ringer. We met irregularly for ten years or so until it devolved to four codgers meeting for breakfast a half dozen times a year. Of the four, only Terry and I remain. It’s a bitter testament to our octogenarian reality.  Bill will be missed. Two does not make a quorum.

Bill, Terry, Cris, and I had a four man show in 2016. It was called Four Photographers Two Galleries as it was held at Wilder Nightingale Fine Art and David Anthony Fine Art. I am grateful to have shared wall space with Mr. William Davis.

As to photography, Bill left an eclectic body of work beginning with color then mid-century black and white and ending with colorful highly manipulated abstracts constructed on his computer as his mobility declined. Last August Bill had a well-attended, and successful retrospective at the Barreis Gallery. He was surrounded by those who loved him. There are a lot of us. He was faltering physically but demonstrably energized and very much in his element. 

When I saw him two weeks ago, he was bedridden and seemingly asleep. I touched his cheek with my cold February hand. Startled, he grumbled, “Ow! That hurts.” I responded that I thought it would be refreshing. Even in that last visit he was lucid and Bill Davis funny. I left him the most recent copy of Black and White Magazine as I always did. I told him I’d exchange it for a new one on my next visit. 

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