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Strong Artistic Views

Original post made by John Barry, Danville, on 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

Comments (7)

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Posted by Mandy
a resident of Danville
on Oct 27, 2010 at 6:57 pm

We saw his Jonah in the Link 2 fine art gallery in Danville and Kevin took the time and explain his reasons for painting him this way. It was great insight in to the mind of an artist. We loved the piece.

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Posted by Karla
a resident of Danville
on Oct 28, 2010 at 11:14 am

Bravo! What the Vatican does not know is that it is a miricle that Kevin lived to paint Jonah, or paint at all. Kevin was hit by a car on his bike just a year or so ago. Injuring his dominate arm. He is a business man, father and husband; responsibilities he meets with great passion. Yet he makes time to be a serious artists.

Great news Kev.

Karla Schreffler

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Posted by Kevin
a resident of San Ramon
on Oct 29, 2010 at 10:01 am

The piece and several others will be on display at 'Peace Lutheran Church' in Danville, off of Tassahara.
We'll be showcasing several spiritual paintings from a few artists through November 15.

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Posted by Bill Carmel
a resident of Danville
on Oct 29, 2010 at 11:44 am

Congratulations Kevin! You took a great risk at outright rejection and the reward was consideration. You have exposed one aspect of the dark underbelly of the art world, the huge double message that our community delivers to professional artists who don't paint pretty landscapes and still lifes.

My experience of critics is that they display the greatest arrogance when they have no idea they are being the most offensive to others. The double message of the Vatican is that they acknowledge and collect some of the best art in the world, but won't show it until the artist is dead, and probably not even then. The Vatican, like most other communities, only exhibits work that reflects their narrow perception of "community standards."

People say they have respect for and value art and artists, but they expect that artists donate their artwork to various fundraisers for all kinds of good causes without compensation of any kind. All the time, artists are asked to exhibit their work in all kinds of businesses without compensation (like rental.) This common attitude that art is for free, and that disrespect of artists who think and work outside of the box is why most artists I know feel that they don't have any choice when it comes to exhibiting their work to have a chance at sales.

The Dark Ages of Art are upon us, indeed. Our Town Council thinks that decoration for trash bins and fountains is public art. They also believe that they have a perfect right to censorship of art in their new public "Peanut Art" gallery. They constantly talk about how they support the arts and how they want art to flourish, but it is only art that meets their definition of "community standards" and is their idea. This definition excludes a great deal of work by professional artists. It is a huge social disconnect and double message. Public support of the arts, where it exists at all, is relegated to the lowest common denominator -- it is pretty, nice and looks great on a coffee mug.

Happily, private and corporate support of art and artists exists, but the need is much greater, especially during economic recessions and depressions . Most artists, when they cannot find representation with the diminishing number of private galleries and agents, are forced to trade their wares in the streets, sidewalks and parks, paying fees and commissions for the "privilege."

Kevin is right to look far from the community where he lives in order to support his professional artistic aspirations and beliefs. Kevin, I wish you great success. Your work inspires me.

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Posted by Jan Hersh
a resident of Danville
on Oct 29, 2010 at 6:39 pm

I'm delighted to hear this bizarre story and look forward to viewing Davidson's art at Peace Lutheran!

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Posted by kDavidson
a resident of San Ramon
on Oct 30, 2010 at 10:10 am

Thanks for the comments on this subject.

There has been 1 gallery in Danville which accepted the piece with open arms...Link2FineArt ( Stephen (gallery director) has an eclectic group of artists in the gallery.

The other galleries in the area specifically look for a certain type of art. This is not speculation, its their policy. They've essentially determined that the public will only eat pretty and to not even give them an opportunity for anything else.

This is why there are lines at Museums and at the Vatican. The art is sacred and unique in these venues. I've NEVER seen a line wrapped around Hartz Avenue to enter the Gallery there.

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Posted by inspired
a resident of Alamo
on Nov 5, 2010 at 6:28 pm

Yes, Kevin is heading somewhere special.
We've met briefly. Lets just say he's...unique), like his Jonah painting. In a good way.

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