Through his art Shay provides powerful emotional responses to a world of real and fantasy stimuli. Each work challenges the viewer to create his own reality and understanding of the exciting mix of forms, objects and color within.
Beginning his art career at age 5 with an early interest in sports and superheroes , one still finds a sense of carefree imagination combined with new meaning and strength in all of his work. Likewise, a sense of playfulness from Shay's life as a football star, surfer, and free spirit, is linked with his own internal challenges in the real world and pervades all of his art.
Shay has recently received recognition for his work including being nominated for 2011 SD Art Prize New Contemporaries and being one of 8 artists selected as a "Heartist" for San Francisco General Hospital's 2013 fundraiser, "Hearts and Heroes. His original works grace the homes of such people as actress Halle Berry and Jayne Seymour, athletes such as Tony Hawk, Bill Garnett, and Koy Detmer, and music legend Gregg Allman. Shay and his dog reside in Denver, CO
University of Colorado Fine Arts Bachelor in Arts 1992 - 1995
Awards and Accomplishments
Art and Soul (Program teaching Children with disabilities how to paint) Honorable Mention Art Award: Curtis Humanities Art Center 2000 Designed Logos for Solo Sports Designed CD cover for the Rap Group Three Kings 2002 Showcase Artist: Mask project Cherry Creek 2004 Mutts and Modeling Charity Event 2004 Coldwell Banker Charity Auction for Homeless 2004 Spill Lounge Charity Event 2004 Old Chicago Designated Artist 200
Gregory's Design Center. Denver, CO. 1999 Chop House Charity event for Columbine High School. Denver, CO. 1999 Cherry Creek Arts Festival. Cherry Creek, CO. 1999 Hugo Boss Charity fundraiser for homeless children. Denver, CO. 1999 Dan Howell Art Show (Invite only) Denver, CO. 2000 Curtis Humanities Art Center, juried. Denver, CO 2001 Core Gallery Juried. Denver, CO. 2001 Space Gallery. Denver, CO. 2001 Access Gallery. Denver, CO. 2001 Space Gallery. Denver, CO. 2002 Daniel and Fischer Clock Tower Gallery. Denver, CO. 2004 Spark Gallery Juried. Denver, CO. 2004 Key Steakhouse. Denver, CO 2005 Artwalk. San Diego, CA. 2007 Wildcoast art Show- fundraiser. San Diego, CA. 2007 Eagle Fine Art. La Jolla, Ca. 2007 Sideways riders art show with eek a mouse, San Diego, CA. 2008 Alarm will sound. Distinction gallery, San Diego CA. 2007 Hive Gallery, Los Angles, CA. 2008 Synergy art show for cancer, San Diego CA. 2008 Paramount Pictures artist for the movie the soloist. April, 2009. Last rites gallery, New Breed. New York NY, 2009 Cannibal Flower featured artist. Los Angles, CA 2010 Oceanside Museum of art, steam punk show. San Diego, CA 2010 Cave Gallery, Los Angles, CA. 2011 Distinction Gallery, "seven deadly sins" San Diego, CA. 2011 Oxholm Galleri , Copenhagen Denmark. 2014 Scope Sweden 2014 Point Gallery, "what i have become" 2015. Denver CO Abend gallery " Inner visions" 2016. Denver CO abend gallery " minature show" 2016. Denver CO
Celebrities with Paintings
Matt Russell: Detroit Lions Matt Lepsis: Denver Broncos Koy Detmer: Philledelphia Eagles Steve Busik: Denver Broncos Angel Echeveria: Colorado Rockies Halle Berry: Actress Tony Hawk: Pro Skateboarder Bill Garnett: Indiana Pacers Jayne Seymour: Actress Greg Allman: Allman brothers
Interview with Natalia Joruk
Look at one of Shay Davis’ paintings and you are transported to a place that flourishes deep within the mind’s eye; effortlessly, he absorbs the state of realty as it currently stands - and morphs it back onto the canvas in his signature style. While you indulge in the incredible amount of detail implemented into each piece, Shay’s own brand of surrealism raises a mirror to humankind, exploring our highs and lows, political and ecological impacts, and the state of our reality as it currently stands.
His latest series, Vision Quest, shares another astounding selection of works: “it was the perfect next step for the journey I was on” Shay explains. Currently exhibiting at Abend Gallery in Denver, CO, Vision Quest unveils two years of work in one mesmerising showcase. The show is a reflection of humankind’s destructive effect on natural habits around the world, exhibited with both brutal honesty and gentle delicacy, perfectly balanced in equilibrium. Animals stretch over one another, creeping into the ‘human’ world which now permeates relentlessly across Earth – yet beauty is still there to be seen. The series follows on from the topics Shay explored in his painting Greed, part of his previous series interpreting the Seven Deadly Sins, yet Vision Quest delves deeper into the reality that the human race has created.
A rising star in the modern surrealist movement, Shay Davis’ paintings have exhibited in numerous galleries of prestige including Abend Gallery, Distinction Gallery and Oxholm Gallery, and museums including Oceanside Museum of Art. With bright colours and often obscure yet relevant viewpoints, Shay’s use of symbolism provides a platform for the viewer to imbue their own interpretation into what they see, while keeping Shay’s main meaning poignantly clear. I interviewed Shay about his current show Vision Quest, and to understand more about the man behind the art.
Previously, you created a series of paintings influenced by the Seven Deadly Sins which explored the essence and effect of animal excess. Your current show at Abend Gallery, ‘Vision Quest’, explores endangered species within the seven continents they are from. How does this new series differ from your last?
Vision Quest differs from the Seven Sins series mainly because this series focuses on the animals affected by humankind, while the Sins series focused on the humans themselves. Both series, however, are connected in that they both deal with Man’s folly - one being to ourselves, and the other [Vision Quest] on the extent of damage we have done - damage to the point where we have endangered so many species around the world, and how we have treated the planet.
The Seven Sins series also influenced me to do seven continents within Vision Quest – it is a nice connection tying the two series together.
Your painting the Last White Rhino (Africa) is particularly heart-breaking, curled up alone in the darkness on a barren land in Africa. Yet, there’s something strangely comforting about the butterflies hovering above – can you tell us more about this piece in your own words?
I did this after I heard the last White Rhino had died. I wanted to show him as, maybe, not
dead, or maybe he is. I wanted to create ambiguity and an essence of hope – to leave this Rhino’s fate up to the viewer. The butterflies again can mean different things to different people – they can represent rebirth of some kind, or they could also represent the souls of the rhinos, heading upward...
The butterfly is a recurring image in your paintings; what kind of butterfly is this? What does it represent?
It is usually the Monarch butterfly that I paint. They represent change, hopefully for the good (this is my wish!), just as they go from a cocoon to a butterfly. I also really love how they are so majestic and beautiful - they tie many of my paintings together that way as well.
I’m curious as to the title of this exhibition. This is a powerful and surreal series of works for viewers to walk through Abend Gallery and experience first-hand, but what about you? Did you go on your own type of vision quest while you were creating the pieces for this show?
I guess my own vision quest for this show was based around a couple of things. One is that I wanted to study up on as many endangered species I could find in preparation for this series. I found so many beautiful and interesting creatures I had not known about before, like the Snubbed Nose Monkey from Asia or the Australian finch. This was mind opening for me - to find out so much more about the extent of endangerment and extinction we have directly caused, during my research! I ended up putting all the new species that I’d found out about into at least a quarter of the paintings.
The second element to my own vision quest was that I wanted the viewer to be able to grasp the emotion I was trying to bring out in myself onto the canvas. I worked on these painting for two years. I hope I achieved it.
Do you have any stories you can share about your journey creating these paintings?
There are a few but this one comes to mind now: I have always loved ring-tailed lemurs, but
had never seen one in person until I went to a wild animal park in Colorado Springs and
saw a whole clan of them from arm’s length. I’ll never forget it - they were like little people with insane eyes.
It was so cool I watched them for at least half an hour.
You grew up with one foot in the world of sport and the other in art. There’s not many people who can say they became the star running back for the University of Colorado while simultaneously achieving a bachelor’s degree in fine art! Do you think you benefitted more from this duel education, than if you had just focused on art alone?
I think more so it was the growing up playing sports at such a high level that I learned to
be competitive and have discipline - I couldn’t have learned this just being an artist. To
finish 30 paintings, including 7 4x5 ft ones, with the precision, detail, and meaning was
Each painting I want to be the best it can be and this is where the competitiveness comes in. Color theory, extreme detail, composition, and emotion. Every possible thing counts to make the painting the best I can make it.
Some artists use music to help their creativity. Do you listen to music while you paint?
During the drawing process I will listen to a variety of music which only works while
I’m drawing. I listen to so many styles it’s hard to narrow any down.
When painting I always listen to podcasts like ‘Joe Rogan’ or Youtube videos such as Alan Watts and Jordan Peterson. I also listen to Coast to Coast am about half the time as well - there are some cool guests on there with wild stuff to talk about.
Are there any other influences which you turn to, to help motivate or stoke creativity?
Actually, long bike rides or runs help me to clear my mind. Also, I meditate for an hour a day; I get tons of ideas doing that - a clear mind just eats up creativity.
I love how trippy some of your paintings are; take Big Road to Kittridge (North America) for instance. There is so much going on, animals almost on top of each other and even merging with the scenery – it’s a mesmerizing chaos! Is this a reflection of how humans are pushing them out of their own territory?
Yes that was a small part of this painting - awesome you caught that! This painting is particularly personal to me. I wanted to use an area in this particular North America painting which depicts where I live, and what better area than Red Rocks. I also tried to use as many Colorado-based endangered animals as I could, which made it a little crazy as well!
Gritty and Glam (Europe) is another painting which feels that it throws its subjects into new territories. What drew you to create an underwater painting?
I have done some other paintings in the past which are based underwater but not many. For this one, I also had the idea to have the Greek buildings underwater because most images of that area gave me that ‘blue’ feeling, so I figured why not make the blue the water instead of the sky?
Your style is unique – a “futuristic surrealism” as you describe it. I see the essence of Salvador Dali (one of my own favourites!) - what or who are your other influences?
Dali definitely, but have tried to not look at any of his work in years for that reason. I
think my other influences are definitely Rubens, and most of the masters who use glazing techniques.
Have there been any personal experiences which you think have influenced your paintings?
I think that getting hurt in sports influenced my thoughts to focus more on painting than
anything else. And with so many good artists out there today, seeing their skills makes
me want to be even more precise on my final product.
Tell us about your process as a painter; you follow the old techniques favoured by the Dutch Masters – that must be very labour-intensive!
Yes, small paintings can take 30 plus hours and the big ones can take up to 150 hours. I use
this old technique but with a twist - I glaze a few more colored layers than is expected.
Then, towards the end I glaze a purple and blue-black colour for the shadows. I usually do this for
three extra layers.
Wow that sounds incredible! Focusing on your processes, are there any new materials or ideas that you have been experimenting with lately?
I’m thinking of simplifying things a lot for the next series. Fewer subjects and not as wild - but
still my same style, if that makes sense!
Lastly, I have to ask - if there is one thing that viewers can walk away with after seeing ‘Vision Quest’ at Abend Gallery, what would you like that to be?
I want them to have some awareness about what we are doing to our planet and in turn, how it is risking us never seeing these beautiful creatures again.
I also want them to know I put everything I have in me into this show for the public to see and appreciate how much work it was, and how amazing it turned out.