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Voodoo, Christianity And Twitter Fuse In New Art Show

Musician, curator, and artist Damon Davis
Jen Everett/Courtesy of the Artist

Voodoo and Twitter, Christianity and Facebook. The new visual art exhibit ALTrs draws inspiration from them all.

Damon Davis, participating artist, musician and curator, said he hopes to highlight the relationship between daily rituals and the tradition of grand ritual in religious practices.

“The basic idea is blending technology and social media, things of that nature, all the rituals we have now with older, for lack of a better word, archaic rituals,” said Davis.

ALTrs features work by Davis, musician and artist Black James, and video artist Chad Elvins. The show, which opens this weekend at the Kranzberg Arts Center, takes its name from both a religious table and the “Alt” computer key.

Damon’s initial concept sprung from his study of African religions and Voodoo. 

“I wanted to see what it really is,” he said. “It looks a lot like Greek mythology.” He traced the practice’s history back from the southern United States through Haiti to West Africa where the practice’s foundations were laid in tribal religions. 

Davis’ work is also influenced by the role of masks in religious rituals and the intersection with “masks” in social media.

“I think social media itself is a mask,” he said. “People can sit behind keyboards, say and do things they’ve never done before. They also have a huge audience and an anonymity and protection that cyberspace gives people. That alone is the biggest current day metaphor for the mask.”   

Davis will exhibit large-scale paintings made on wood, using metallic paints, with the intent of integrating handmade technologies with colors and textures taken from current technologies. 

Jennifer McDaniel began using the moniker “Black James” when she started performing music and showing artwork two years ago. She’s an architect in training, but she remains attracted to visual art.

Jennifer McDaniel aka "Black James"
Credit Willis Ryder Arnold/St. Louis Public Radio
Jennifer McDaniel aka "Black James"

“You can create ideas through visual art that you can’t communicate through language or music. It can mean whatever it wants to you,” she said. “It’s up to you to decipher what it means."

Her work functions as two-dimensional shrines to modern society and internet identity. Some images are pulled from Buddhist and Christian traditions. These borrowed pictures are paired with images created in three-dimensional computer programs and integrated into the rest of the collage.

“It’s all me. It’s all my perception. A lot of these pictures are ideas that have been churning in my head for a long time,” said James. She said religious imagery is ingrained in her personality, having been raised Baptist, although she doesn’t consider herself a highly religious person now. 

James says her work is still evolving. She began as a painter but now integrates 3D imagery, photography and digital imagery into collages. 

“It’s about half creating new images, and then using stuff that other people have made, and taking their stuff, messing with it and putting it with mine,” James said. 

ALTrs opening reception takes place Friday, Nov. 7. The show closes Dec. 4.