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Painting is silent poetry, and poetry is painting that speaks. Simonides

C. Dawn Davis


Carl Linstrum: The Night Circus is a series of paintings that you began several years ago. Do you remember when it began and what your original inspiration was?

C. Dawn Davis: I don't remember there being a particular beginning for the series. I have always been moved by Picasso's saltimbanques, the great solitude of each performer even in a group painting. A few years ago, I had the opportunity to view contemporary Russian painters whose work had the same effect on me- a look in the eyes giving rise to sadness, the existence in an 'empty space'- a place timeless, costumes ageless. I painted The Night Circus complete with tents, performers, patrons, animals, and I suppose I have worked backwards bringing the tiny characters full-blown into life on the canvas.

CL: How do you feel you have worked backwards?

CDD: One usually creates a whole from the sum of its parts, constructing step by step. I feel that I had a concept, painted it, and became fascinated with the possibilities of exploration into exactly who and what made up The Night Circus.

CL: Your current exhibition is the largest cohesive collection of paintings from The Night Circus series. It also coincides with your ten year anniversary of representation in Atlanta, first with Aliya Linstrum Gallery and now with Linstrum + Matre Artworks. Did you intentionally choose this occasion as an indicator of how important The Night Circus is to you? Do you feel like the series has come to an end with the exhibition or do you see it continuing for many years to come?

CDD: The characters who inhabit The Night Circus are the same characters I've always painted- nude or costumed figures either regarding the viewer with a level gaze or in a more introspective pose allowing the viewer to examine them. The Night Circus as a particular series just gives my characters an enigmatic place- intermingling past and present- in which to exist, each in their own mystery and melancholy. The name will surely change with time's passage, but I will always paint the secret nature of a stranger's life.

CL: What connections do you see between The Night Circus paintings and others that you create outside of the series?

CDD: Even though paintings may differ in subject matter, palette, texture, or mixed media elements, it is hard to get away from yourself. There is always a telltale thread - reappearing personal icons, color combinations, repeated physical types - sewing things together. I have often worried that the paintings for a show look as though several artists created them (that or someone completely mad!) and am thankfully amazed that in hanging as a group, they are unmistakably mine.

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