Meet American Queen TJD: Not the female Basquiat

November 22, 2013

Art part of "American Queen" series from Tiffany Davis (Photo courtesy of Dais)

Art part of “American Queen” series (Photo courtesy of Davis)

Too many Basquiats. Not enough new artists.”

Black acrylic etches the lines of the first five words atop three stacked yellow crowns that run down the canvas’s vertical. The letters of the last two words—arguably the most prolific—are bold white on top a banner of black at the end, serving as the eyes of a symbolic queen. The background is a sea of baby blue with random strokes of white, red, navy and yellow.

In a way, Tiffany Davis’s anchor of her “American Queen” series—and the series itself, which includes “Never Condense Art,” a spin on Andy Warhol’s infamous soup cans—is both reverence and dismissal. For her series, the 29-year-old West Philadelphia artist (who goes by American Queen TJD (Facebook page)) takes elements from her favorite artists—like Jackson Pollack’s splashes or Jean-Michael Basquiat’s crown—and treats them as foundations for a larger purpose. Davis then washes the distinct trademarks away with her own deeply felt abstract expressionism—each canvas a kaleidoscope of color and words that call to a greater mission.

“Anybody can reproduce anything that Basquiat did, but why would you want to do it?,” Davis said, talking from her hotel room on Sunday as she waited for the Eagles game to begin. “I can probably make a name for myself [if I called] myself the female Basquiat, but why should I have to do that?”

Davis, who works during the day as a program director at Drexel University, hung up the hats of her successful fine art-cum-clothing line Cocky Persona last year in order to concentrate on the canvas-based visual work. It’s art that projects a message, with all canvas infected with the moments taking place in her life or in the world at large. (Her next string of pieces will reflect her recent trial — losing her rented South Philly home this past weekend to a fire. The day of our conversation, she was in the process of moving back to her childhood home at 56th and Larchwood.) You can read it in the words that brand each canvas, like “Waste no time. Live,” “Breathe. Passion proves itself,” “Love you first,” or “Worth, state of mind”—positive reinforcements from the gut. 

It’s also her rebellion—affirmations that she won’t compromise her individuality in order to become popular. Instead, Davis is putting herself out there, touring art conventions across the country and displaying her work in local galleries, like the Vivant Art Collection in Old City. Part of this tour includes a spot in the digital exhibition at Scope Miami Beach 2013, part of a larger International art show, taking place in the Florida city from December 3 – 8.

Tiffany Davis (Photo courtesy of Dais)

Tiffany Davis (Photo courtesy of Davis)

More importantly, though, she wants to be an inspiration for young girls. As a visual artist, Davis notices both the lack of female artists and artists of color in the commercialization of fine art. On bags, in songs, on shows, and everywhere else in between, you’ll see Warhol, Picasso, Michelangelo, Basquiat, Pollack and Monet. But if you were to ask someone to name a female artist, Davis poses, who would you hear? Frida Kahlo, sure. Georgia O’Keefe, maybe.

Even as an art school graduate, Davis said she can’t actually name a female artist other than the aforementioned two. She knows of them, but learning about them in art history class? She can’t recall. “I would think I would, but I just don’t remember. If we did, it was real quick,” Davis said with a laugh.

“I can’t even name a black artist for you right now and that’s kind of a bad thing,” Davis, who is African American, continued. “I feel bad saying that. I don’t even know a black female visual artist. I’m sure there are, but it’s like I’m college educated and I still don’t know [any]…It kind of hurts a little bit because I’m like, ‘Why don’t I know these things?’”

Davis hopes by attending SCOPE, putting on more shows in the area, and even starting a small female-centered art collective, she is able to serve as an example for young girls interested in art who feel underrepresented—so that they don’t experience the same disconnect to the art world as she did.

It calls back to that greater mission. If Davis has her way, she will be the next great Black female artist, and you’ll know her name just like Basquiat’s.

“I’m making a name for myself…I’m going mainstream,” she said, a confidence unyielding.

Annamarya Scaccia

1 Comments For This Post

  1. Bev Billions Says:

    Congrats on the article, and on you “putting yourself” out there!” So, is Andy Worhol your inspiration, or would you say you, spin off of his art.

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