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By John A. Barry

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About this blog: I am the creator of trAction Painting, a process/performance genre in which paint is applied to large surfaces with bicycles, roller skates, and other wheeled conveyances. I have produced works on canvas, plywood, particle board, ...  (More)

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Strong Artistic Views

Uploaded: Oct 26, 2010

San Ramon artist Kevin Davidson (whom I profiled in a past column) recently acted on a whim. He decided to contact the Vatican to determine how to submit his spiritual paintings for review. But how do you get in touch with the seat of Roman Catholicism to have your paintings reviewed?

"I sent a message to the only e-mail address I could find, and by—I can only call it a miracle—my JPG files and bio reached the curator and director's desk of the Vatican Museums in Rome."

Davidson says they were fascinated by his "Jonah in the Whale" work (pictured), and—in another miracle—said that the Vatican would ideally like to accept it or two other pieces for the museums' collection. However, there was a problem.

The director of the Vatican Museums ("in charge of the Sistine Chapel!") e-mailed Davidson, indicating he liked all the work. But the museums' customary policy is not to accept works by LIVING ARTISTS (emphasis Davidson's). "Basically, it was not the right time for them to have my work. However, I told the director that one of my pieces would eventually end up at the Vatican . . . someday," Davidson recalls.

Davidson's response was to thank the director very much, adding that "if their policy loosens up or they need a commissioned piece, they should contact me. Otherwise, I'll have the owner donate the piece as soon as I'm dead."

Davidson sees his Vatican adventure as emblematic of the life of artists: "As soon as we're dead, we will be displayed at the Vatican and other museums." Kidding aside, Davidson notes that he is honored and humbled that his work was even viewed by the Vatican Museums hierarchy. "This is an honor few living artists receive, and I was not expecting it to happen," he says.

But this story doesn't end there. Davidson has also sent work to The National Museum of Catholic Art and History in Harlem and the Museum of Contemporary Art at St. Louis University. The NMCA has expressed interest in exhibiting Davidson's painting "Pieta" in a show in Madrid, Spain, next year, to be viewed by the Pope.

As an aside, Davidson expresses some strong views about the current state of art. "To me, art history may call this period the Dark Ages of art, a time when art meant little more than its lowest common denominator: pretty pictures. There appears to be a lack of deeper spiritual meaning behind lots of work today . . . think paintings that are pleasing to the eye and nothing else.

"Look no farther than some of the galleries in the surrounding area. Most gallery owners and art organizations don't want religious or complex art that actually makes you think. In fact, they specifically stay away from such work. However, I think they've significantly underestimated the members of the viewing public and their interests."

He continues: "I think, because technology has bullied its way into our lives, people will begin looking for something sacred in their art, beyond paintings of Mt. Diablo and vineyards. I guarantee there will be a renaissance of art in the near future."

Anyone interested in viewing Davidson's proto-Renaissance art may contact him at 925-818-4720 or e-mail Davidson at to view his studio and works.

John A. Barry is a writer and avocational artist. To share anything art-related, call him at 314-9528 or email


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