For years, Israeli mixed media painter Bibi Davidson has been doodling characters on every piece of paper she could find. The artist, who primarily paints female figures and animals dressed in bright clothes, states that she has an emotional attraction to (what she calls) “basic colors” such as yellow, red, white, and blue. The artist, whose work is being shown in the dynamic new solo exhibition titled “The Girl in the Red Dress” at Gallery 825, has stated that the color red actually helps her to breathe: “Red makes me feel like the pores of my skin are widening, and it makes me breath better.”
Bibi Davidson “The Girl In The Red Dress“
October 15–November 18, 2016
825 N. La Cienega Blvd. | Los Angeles, CA 90069
Photos by Kristine Schomaker
Bibi’s bold self-portrait figures, who are often surrounded by water droplets and floating eyes, bring us into an energetic atmosphere where we see fluid figures that bend and move like acrobats, and red lips, big bows, and stripes reminiscent of the palettes seen among carnivals and circuses. But a contrast is at work here, and the colors and doll-like figures mask a seriousness which seeps out in the teardrops streaming from faces, in the blood-red droplets that add drama, and in the powerful wording that the artist has affixed to some of her works.
Bibi’s work usually starts with an idea floating in her head that could either be generated from a word she hears, or a situation she has either experienced or witnessed, or she may be sparked by a color. “If I see a color that attracts me, I can be talking to a person and while chatting get an idea for a new work. I then draw it in my drawing book, sometimes I do it, sometimes I lose interest.” Bibi, who has been exhibiting her artwork consistently since 1998, mostly paints on wooden boards, in acrylics or oils, then slowly adds various elements to create a 3D effect. At present, she feels drawn to making sculptures from mesh and hardware or something unexpected that she may find interesting.
A resemblance exists between some of Bibi’s characters and the bright red, white, and blue colors, puffy sleeves, red yarn hair, and black shoes of the classic American “Raggedy Ann and Andy” dolls from the early 1900s. When asked if she has heard of Raggedy Ann, whose name was derived from two James Whitcomb Riley poems, “The Raggedy Man” and “Little Orphant Annie,” Bibi stated, “I was introduced to Raggedy Ann dolls only as an adult, when my first daughter was five years old, and I love rag dolls. I must admit that for years I wanted to have the color and texture of Raggedy’s red hair, and eventually I managed to make a variation of it.” Bibi loves painting hair, her end result resembling something between tangibly-thick, significant spaghetti strands, and sugar-sweet, waxy licorice bootlaces, all of which leave us leaning in for a closer look, perhaps falling victim to some kind of visual hunger, or childlike, magnetic curiosity. The effect is not unlike the experience of watching a stop-motion character whose hair moves strangely from frame to frame, in erratic yet oddly fluid jerks that are almost hypnotic.
In addition to the hair, the eyes of artist’s self-portraits ask for closer looks. Gazing out with a clear and powerful stare, these subjects come from contexts such as heartbreak, death, and anger, in paintings with titles such as “Shoot me before I die” and “I dare you to kiss me.” In her mixed media piece “Don’t even think about it,” the artist has painted herself in a red dress on a blue couch next to a clever and suspicious rabbit “other self,” both figures bearing fresh and dressed wounds. An owl perched behind them, as well as more rabbits and a school of red fish all watch them in suspense wondering if the artist will eventually succumb to temptation, whereby likely subjecting herself to further wounds.
Bibi, who has stated that she sometimes paints what she is unable to say, recalls that she was an extremely shy and insecure kid. “I’ve been drawing and later painting maybe from the age of four. I’ve been told by the adults around me that all the weird thoughts that I had in my head were not real and not the norm to say.” She states that the adults always said that she had to fit in the social and conservative world that they were a part of, and this caused her to shut down, to keep quiet. But as an adult, Bibi is no longer quiet, and is now painting female figures and animals that represent all of the different parts of herself. “My characters in my work,” she states, “represent me and help me to be in touch with my many personalities, and my painted characters help me to explore new sides of myself. I recommend this process,” she says, “to any artist working in any media to look inside themselves.” Bibi feels that art can help people find their adventures, whether they exist in fantasy or reality, and that art can be especially useful to people who cannot express themselves verbally.
“I love painting my different personalities,” Bibi says. “The more I do it, the more free I become, the more I get into the stories I was in or pretended to be in. I understand how we know nothing about anything, and then I add in some humor to all the pain I’ve been through.”