The Art of Now
The Dixon pulls out all the stops for this one-of-a-kind show.
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The daughter of a musician, teacher, and composer, Maritza Davila learned early in life to honor her creative drive. “I was always interested in art,” she says, “and people in the neighborhood would come to me if they needed something drawn. I would make paper dolls, I’d crochet clothes; I was always creating something.”
During her first semester at the University of Puerto Rico, she discovered the medium that has shaped her life and career. “I really got hooked on printmaking,” she says, “the process of it, the time it takes to build up to the final project. I love its sense of mystery.”
She contrasts that process with the “instant gratification” common in today’s world. With the latter, she explains, “you lose the magic. The technique of printmaking is like waiting to open a present, then seeing what you have.” But at Memphis College of Art, where she is a professor of fine arts and has taught printmaking since 1982, she urges students not to get lost in the technique, but to use it as their vocabulary. “What they have to say is more important than the process.”
From the first day of class, she stresses to aspiring artists the importance of honesty, discipline, and holding to principles. “I want my students to know that it’s easy to be swayed, to be seduced by so many things — money, what others think, all the externals.” With that in mind she pushes, warns, and challenges. “I tell them they will get frustrated because they will work harder here than in any course they’ve taken. I will push them places they didn’t know they could go. My job is to show them how technique can be used to express ideas and concepts. And the moment they have found their own voice and they know they can say things through their work that matters to them, they’re hooked.”
Davila, who earned an MFA from Pratt Institute, moved to Memphis in 1980 with her husband Jon Sparks, formerly an editor with The Commercial Appeal and now a freelance journalist. Her images, which have been exhibited in the U.S., Europe, South America, and beyond, often feature doorways, arches, windows, frames within frames; these represent passages that lead to other phases of life. Her art may also express family, womanhood, and her own emotional and spiritual growth. “We should always challenge ourselves, expose ourselves,” says Davila. “Life is a journey, there’s no standing still. Our experiences make us who we are.”