The traveling exhibition Memories & Inspiration: The Kerry and C. Betty Davis Collection of African American Art presents more than sixty works selected from a body of art amassed over 35 years by a working-class couple. Kerry, a retired mailman, and Betty, a former television news producer, gave up many ordinary comforts in order to live with extraordinary paintings, drawings, prints, and sculptures as their principal luxuries. Their collection includes works by Romare Bearden, Beverly Buchanan, Elizabeth Catlett, Sam Gilliam, Loïs Mailou Jones, Jacob Lawrence, Gordon Parks, Alma Thomas, and Charles White, but Kerry and Betty do not search exclusively for well-known and/or documented artists. Rather, they focus on the more meaningful task of gathering and preserving a range of artistic approaches to the Black image, in order to console the psyche and contribute to a more authentic articulation of the self.
The result is an eclectic gathering of works of art crossing different mediums, subjects, and styles by a group of artists of the African Diaspora who—in terms of training, experience, and expression—are strikingly diverse but unified in their use of cultural and historical narratives. As their collection has grown, so has the Davises' storehouse of memories of discovering new works of art, building friendships with artists, and conversing with museum professionals and other collectors in their home. Memories & Inspiration brings together an awe-inspiring selection of works, but it is their personal resonance—their connection to the Davises’ hopes, passions, and everyday lives—that gives the collection its unique power.
Memories & Inspiration: The Kerry and C. Betty Davis Collection of African American Art was organized and toured by International Arts & Artists, Washington, D.C.
Image: Yashua Klos, Coby, 2003, graphite. Photograph by Gregory Staley. © 2018 Yashua Klos.