Art, Writing, // January 7, 2019
Morton Davis – Art for the sake of Depth and Meaning
Interview with artist/writer Davis W. Morton about his new book —
“Art for the sake of Depth and Meaning”
Portraying beauty is the purpose of art for many people. For others, art can also be “art for art’s sake,” or design. And for over a century art has continually shown us new and different ways of viewing our reality. But what part of that reality are we visiting when we are moved in ways we can’t define by a piece of music, a painting, a great book, etc.?
In reality, the vast majority of our true reality has always been an unknown mystery. Like an embedded kind of knowledge from that mystery, it often seems our subconscious mind is trying to tell us something, through the riddles of our dreams and through countless other ways we seldom notice. Then when this deepest part of us encounters depth in art, it almost feels like coming home or saying, “So, that’s what art can do.”
Although the concept of depth is difficult to define, our subconscious mind can bring it closer to the surface, when we look for all of the different meanings we can find for any work of art. So in the spirit of “show me, don’t tell me,” this book gives readers an adventure they can practice, that will hopefully become the habit of always looking for something deeper.
With all of the paintings that follow, take the time to wonder about the story behind each one and how that painting relates to your experience. Create a meaning for it of your own. Then read the comment on the following page that will make you view that painting in a completely different way until you find another meaning.
In this process, the turn of every page will not only introduce you to another unique experience, it may also help you find art’s most important treasure. Just as there is no ceiling for all of the different meanings art can have, there is no boundary for the depth that it can reach. In essence, art for the sake of depth and meaning has always been the purpose of art for me. I hope you enjoy the book.
1. Who are you and what do you do?
I am Davis W. Morton, and I have been making and selling paintings for over 50 years. I’ve also been a published writer in magazines and newspapers since 1980. This year my ebook “Art for the sake of Depth and Meaning” was published and can be found on Amazon. Presently, I’m represented by the Zenith Gallery in Washington, DC, and in Main Street Gallery in Annapolis, Md.
2. About your book, what brought it about?
Since I began painting seriously at the age of 14 I have always wanted to read an article or book that could be titled, “How to create art that has depth.” I have never seen one. They are all about beauty, color, drawing etc. In this book I don’t pretend to know what depth is but in an unobtrusive, “show me, don’t tell me” way I want this book to draw attention to the importance of depth and to show the reader/viewer a way to approach it.
All of my comments in the book naturally sprung from my attempt to explain the depth in my own work to myself and to anyone else who might see it. The title of my book is the purpose of art to me and I also believe the pairing of each painting and comment serves as a very interesting experience that viewers/readers have already found very interesting.
The book has been published on-line, and now I would very much like to find a publisher who would want to publish a print edition of “Art for the sake of Depth and Meaning” as a coffee-table-book.
3. What do you like about this project?
I love to paint and write and this has given me an excuse to do both. I also like the fact that this book isn’t preaching about depth, and isn’t heavy-handed. It is helping people think about depth on their own by giving the viewer/reader an exercise disguised as an enjoyable adventure.
4. What are the best responses you have had to this work?
People really like the combination of the paintings with the comments as the two together equal a unique experience. In an “Apple Hardback” example of the book that several people have bought, I’ve been told that the book can be opened to page and the experience of the painting there and its comment is “equal to a chapter.” With all of the 37 paintings and comments being completely different I like to think of the book as having 37 chapters. I’ve also been complimented on the depth of my paintings and the comments and with that I think the higher purpose of this book is also being fulfilled without beating the viewer/reader over the head with it. I’m also delighted that many people ask about the meaning of the painting “Losing Virginia” at the end which does mean to me that the book is helping to create the habit of looking for depth and meaning.
5. What advice would you give to other writer/artists?
I would never be so pompous to give advice myself, but I often share the advice I’ve always tried to follow myself that came from Winslow Homer to a young budding artist. “Paint what you see. Whatever else you have, will come out anyway.” I think the same holds true for writers. Instead of art school be like Jack London and run away from home. That’ll give you something to write about.
6. Are there any other projects that you are considering after this one?
I’m always painting and trying to sell in galleries without compromising my ideals which should certainly be a full-time job. But I’m also halfway through my novel, “Gray Man,” about a narc in 1969 who begins by thinking that he’s James Bond but finds out he’s a traitor to his entire generation. I’m also still editing my short philosophy book, “A Philosophy for Living,” that I began when I was 26 and have been living since that time. I do like the quote from, I think F. Scott Fitzgerald, (paraphrased for sure) “I spent part of the day putting a comma in, and the rest of the day taking it out.” That’s the way it is with my philosophy book… it’s just ideas instead of commas.