Zachary Davis was born in Brooklyn and grew up in New Jersey. He studied Art and English at Wesleyan University. After graduating, he moved to Portland, Oregon where he is running a residency and gallery called Appendix Project Space. He is also currently working with NYC’s American Medium gallery on curation and web projects.
How long have you lived in Portland and what brought you there? I moved out here right after college with my studio-mate, Josh Pavlacky, who grew up nearby, and I’ll have been here five years this summer. It was mainly the promise of doing more art with a good friend rather than anything I knew about the city, but I also have a cousin who lives nearby, and I have really fond childhood memories of visiting her house in the greenest, soggiest forest I had ever seen and finding slugs as long as my hand.
How has living in Portland affected your art practice?Besides specific people and projects that I encountered here, I count the landscape and the weather as big influences. Woods and waterfalls here are really spectacular and accessible, and some of the most alive, tectonically raw places nearby are also totally interpenetrated with housing, which keeps me thinking about the interface between human and nonhuman structures. I think there are a lot of people here doing serious lifestyle experimentation, too. There are five sensory deprivation spas within four miles of me right now.
What are some recent, upcoming or current projects you are working on? I recently released an online piece with Eternal Internet Brotherhood, a group of artists organized by Angelo Plessas in Mexico, and I just presented the same piece in Seattle at a group show organized by Daniel Glendening.
How did your interest in art begin? Escher prints and t-shirts were always around thanks to my dad, and we had a Mark Tansey print depicting of a group of yogis and scientists consulting with a gnarled tree that I absorbed pretty deeply before I ever realized it was unusual. I drew tons of sci-fi and comics when I was a kid, and for a while in high school I was making moody, surrealist Microsoft Paint drawings and putting them online. I also played a lot of computer games, and found that making a really good custom Starcraft level gave me the same satisfaction as making a good drawing.
What materials do you use in your work and what is your process like?I’ve made a lot of work with materials found in pet stores. Good colors, weird relationship between domestic luxury and imaginary primeval experience. More traditional materials like wood, stone and clay are appealing to me right now, too, though maybe they’re destined to be a support or a foil for weirder stuff. I like visual/intellectual material from computer games and data visualization. I’m usually reading when I think of a piece or a show that I want to make. Not many additive processes, lots of experiments. Most of my impulses toward video or moving image lately have ended up as online projects with non-deterministic animations.
How has your work developed within the past year? More acceptance of impulses I don’t totally get, more awareness of broad trajectories or tendencies in my thoughts/work, more balance between freedom and legibility, more object empathy.
What do you do when you’re not working on art? Lots of work on my computer, with a fair amount of incidental surfing. But I plan to be outside as much as possible this summer, which will involve at least one long bike trip and lots of swimming in rivers. I read a lot, usually a three-way alternation between science fiction, essays on art, and science/philosophy.
What are you really excited about right now? The half-dozen gigantic sci-fi movies that are opening right around now. Hosting amazing artists in my living room all summer. Programming an artificial neural net.