Bulldogs of Butler: Zachary Davidson

Photo courtesy of Zachary Davidson. 

CARL NELSON | STAFF REPORTER | canelso1@butler.edu

Zachary Davidson has taught for nine years, two of which have been at Butler. He grew up primarily in Oklahoma. He attended the University of Oklahoma where he received his Master of Fine Arts degree. Davidson then lived and studied in Shanghai, China and taught printmaking classes in Estonia. Now, he lives in Kokomo. Davidson teaches at IU Kokomo and Butler, and continues to make art that he shows locally and sometimes nationally.

This is the latest installment of our Bulldog of Butler series, which is a short interview with someone to get to know more about them. We hope to highlight more and more people on this campus. Go to our website to read more stories about your fellow Dawgs.

The Butler Collegian: What do you teach at Butler and IU Kokomo?

Zachary Davidson: At Butler I’ve taught a few different art classes — PCA for non-majors, intro, intermediate and advanced drawing, as well as a printmaking elective called, “Print, Punk and Propaganda.” I call most of these “foundational art classes. I also teach design and art classes at IU Kokomo.”

TBC: What got you interested in art? What’s your favorite type of art or medium to use?

ZD: I got into art because my grandmother was a landscape painter, but what I really loved was that she would paint my sneakers clean white when I would scuff them up and to me this wasn’t fine art, but it showed me that there are tools and applications to convey messages. She was conveying love to me, but she also instilled confidence in me because I always had fresh sneakers. I saw art as a tool to convey a message. It wasn’t just making a pretty picture. But my favorite type of art is called interventional art — seen in graffiti, protest art, outsider art, art that allows people to convey a specific message that challenges an idea. For my art show here at Butler, my friend and I from grad school tried to create work that displayed our abilities in printmaking and drawing, as well as conveying a message to the medium, reacting to the current political climate. We’ve both found our own voices from experiences we’ve gone through and tried to connect and apply those to our art.

TBC: What’s your favorite color and why?

ZD: Well, there are two colors in particular that I like a lot. My two favorite colors are actually  complementary, on opposite sides of the color wheel, yellow and purple. I’ve always been drawn to purple. It was the first inherent color I enjoyed, but there’s a stigma, or idea of hypermasculinity associated with the color purple. So, I learned at a very young age to think for myself. I actually like yellow for different reasons. When I was a kid, a cop called me a racial slur using the color yellow, and that use of it made me want to take back the original perception I had of the color and change it to other positive ideas.

TBC: You’ve told some interesting stories of your travels in class. Do you think living in Shanghai, China and other foreign countries helped you grow as a person?

ZD: Of course I think living abroad is great. I’m the son of an immigrant, whose parents were immigrants so I think it’s important. When you live around people from different cultures it broadens your scope, and I know that sounds corny but what’s normal for you may not be normal for others and when you can see some relevance, or something you can relate to with another person, it creates compassion and empathy, and I think that’s something that we all have to do and be better at.

TBC: Who was your biggest inspiration, family member, art-, writing-, music-related, anyone who has influenced you significantly?

ZD: I think one important thing is to realize your views are constantly changing so to be on that path between influencing others and being influenced by others I think you have to constantly reflect on the types of media we are intaking. Whether I’m looking through social media, reading a dense philosophical text or at a museum or gallery, I have to assess how these things are relating to what I’m already doing. But to be specific, I like local scenes a lot. I like going to museums and seeing broader context for movements, but I love going to local punk or hip hop shows, hanging out with niche subcultures from specific areas, and I also get a lot of influence from cultural diversity in certain areas. Like going to certain parts of the city, where there are larger populations of certain ethnicities, where you can see different images, and experience different things you normally wouldn’t see.

TBC: Do you have any plans to do other art shows/exhibits in the area?

ZD: I’ll have an exhibition with Malcolm Smith, professor of ceramics at IU Bloomington, at NOISE Gallery in Bloomington, in May. We don’t have the specific date yet. I also have work showing in Atlanta, and then will be in the Southern Graphics Council collection at Kennesaw State’s Zuckerman Museum, the  risograph book is a collaboration with my wife that was inspired by our experiences. It talks about her immigrant experience and race relations in the US. It’s two stories in one. We self-published only 100 copies.

TBC: What’s your overall goal for your artwork, and/or teaching careers?

ZD: Overall, I’d like to become a staple at a university community, where I have more agency and influence so I can share how I think visual communication and art impacts people past just a classroom experience, [including] how we visually interpret things and how that idea can be interpreted through writing, our imaginations, how we dress. I mean, it’s pretty broad. I’d also like to someday have my own small business, a gallery or print shop, where I can help others communicate their ideas with their own hands, giving people the capability to create their own messages and artwork.