A Studio Visit With Miriam Davis

May 20, 2022

It’s a brisk sunny day and the light is pouring through the windows of Miriam Davis’s upstairs studio. 

Downstairs the studio is a little darker and it’s here that Miriam begins her clay sculptures and works on small constructions made out of the many tiny objects she collects.

I asked Miriam what drew her long ago to clay as an art material. She tells me that she was trying different mediums—watercolor, drawing, painting—and they were okay but when she touched clay that was it, clay was immediately exciting. Something about the elasticity, the ability to touch and manipulate the clay and create shape. At first, she says, she made cups and teapots with fanciful designs. That led to making little boxes, some with a figure on the top. She eliminated the boxes and kept the figures, and the figures began to sit on couches and communicate in situations that were not physically possible but were real within the sculpture’s surreal story.

“I have an image or dream that stays in my mind, and I start working out that image with clay until it makes psychological sense to me. It’s okay for the image to be ambiguous because that means alternative stories are possible, but I don’t want inconsistency or confusion.”

The studio upstairs is where Miriam paints, a medium she turned to after many years working in clay. She says “I needed something new, and painting gave me fresh areas of discovery.”

Her paintings, whether tiny or large, have a sense of space which she evokes with tiny transferred images, layering, and shapes that remind me of flowers and clouds. She paints her sculptures too, but here the paint is thinned so the layering shows through to create a floating world full of unexpected objects and mysterious beings.

As I started to leave, Miriam reminded me to include a photo of her opinionated assistant Max.

Carolyn Schneider