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Saturday, August 4, 2018

Beauford Enters the Carnetta and Norm Davis Collection

Carnetta and Norm Davis placed the winning bid for the Beauford Delaney pastel entitled Portrait of a Young Man during the Case Antiques auction house on July 14.

Carnetta Davis graciously granted Les Amis the following interview about this latest acquisition.

Carnetta Davis and Portrait of a Young Man
Image courtesy of Carnetta Davis

Portrait of a Young Man
(1938) Pastel on paper
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

Les Amis: Why are you so passionate about collecting art?

C. D.: After learning of the struggles of the early African-American artists to be recognized equally with their peers of other races, my husband Norm and I decided in our own way to try to help forgotten and underappreciated artists, mostly due to discrimination, receive long overdue recognition. We welcome people into our home and loan works to museums and galleries to help educate the public on this genre of work. We also desire to call attention to the works of living African American artists whose past experiences are unique and helped to define their unique brand of American Art.

Les Amis: How long have you been collecting?

C. D.: My husband, Norm and I have always collected, but not always art. About fourteen (14) years ago, we shifted our focus to art by African American artists.

Les Amis: Do you have a selection process for the pieces you collect?

C. D.: Yes. We have an ever-changing list of artists that we are interested in collecting. Recently we have specifically focused on artists who were educators and artists from Alabama and the South, but we have significant artists from all over the United States in our collection.

Les Amis: What makes your collection distinctive?

C. D.: The collection includes more than 150 works of African-American art, spanning the 19th to the 21st centuries and with this collection, we attempt to show the evolution of African American Art. We also collect works by artists who at one time were significant when living but are currently off the radar. We also have works in our collection that are not by African Americans or American artists but are simply items that we were drawn to or inherited from family members.

Carnetta Davis with Portrait of a Young Man and
other pieces from the Davis Collection
Image courtesy of Carnetta Davis

Les Amis: What about Beauford Delaney's art is appealing to you?

C. D.: In addition to pleasing aesthetics, I enjoy art that tells stories. I love the fact that if you examine his works over the years and study his life story, you can distinctively see how his work evolved. His use of color is especially appealing.

Les Amis: Why is it important to you to have his work in your collection?

C. D.: Beauford Delaney seemed to be a free spirit who did not conform to what was expected of African American artists of the times. He learned and grew from experiences shared with people from a very wide range of ethnicities and cultures. He followed his dreams and relocated to Paris. This fluidity of his spirit shows in his work over time. His story is just as significant as his art.

Les Amis: Does the fact that Beauford is from the South play a role in your interest in his art?

C. D.: Most definitely. As a daughter of the South, born and reared in Birmingham, Alabama, I feel a connection to other Southerners who create and appreciate art.

Les Amis: Do you have a preference for his abstract or figurative works?

C. D.: I prefer his abstract works but Portrait of a Young Man, a figurative expressionism work, speaks to me. Characteristics of this work provide insight on the direction his work would take.

Les Amis: What attracted you to Portrait of a Young Man?

C. D.: It fits perfectly into our collecting “sweet spot”. It is an early work (1938) that is unlike anything we own. It helps tell the story and illustrate how his work evolved. In 1938, Delaney was photographed painting in Washington Square in New York City by Life magazine. This work could have been painted by him there.

Les Amis: Does this piece tell a story to you?

C. D.: I have the desire to want to know more about how the young man came to be a subject for this painting.

Les Amis: Do you have other Beauford Delaney works?

C. D.: No, but I would like to acquire others, especially one of his abstracts. We have two (2) paintings by his brother, Joseph Delaney.

Les Amis: Do you have any comments to add?

C. D.: I am happy the planets aligned, and we were able to add this work to our collection. We look forward to sharing it along with what we have learned about Beauford Delaney and his work with others.

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