Nikki Basch Davis paints stories, and the one that’s been dominating her creative attention—haunting her for months—is the story of human tragedy unfolding at the southern border, where the U.S. is separating immigrant children from their parents and holding them in government detention facilities. It’s a story Nikki knows all too well.
"I share these experiences; they were part of my childhood.” As the Featured Artist at Gallery 621 for the month of May, Nikki presents a series of paintings and sculptures depicting the immigrant crisis, an exhibit entitled My Voice.
The disturbing news about the immigrant families triggered painful memories for Nikki. She was very young when her family attempted to leave Russia after the Second World War. "We were captured and put in jail. In Russia, when you were put in jail, you ended up for life in Siberia.” The prospects were grim, but by a stroke of luck, Nikki and her mother managed to board a cattle train to freedom.
Nikki understands the trauma for immigrant children at the border. Hearing the news reports, "You feel kind of helpless. All you can do is what you can do.” Nikki is striving to create awareness through her art. "That’s what I can do. So that’s what this is about,” she explained. "The work in this exhibit is my voice, my speaking out."
In her work, Nikki is not interested in painting a pretty picture. "I show a story that touches me.” She endeavors to create curiosity in the viewer and provoke the question, What’s going on here? "There is something more than just painting the figure well."
By that same token, she needs to feel challenged and to always be learning. "I painted plein air for so many years, and there was a lot of joy in it, but then I couldn’t do it anymore. You need to keep changing.” So her focus shifted to figurative in sculpture and in painting. She also recently she began exploring monotyping, a form of printmaking with ink. "You just try to find different ways of creating your art just to challenge yourself, to stay excited about something new.”
The creative process is the best kind of therapy for Nikki. "When you create your art, everything else is outside of your reality for that time. It’s this rest from problems and worries. That’s a gift right there. It enriches your spirit and makes it joyous. The white canvas has all the promise in the world." Nikki is one of the gallery’s founding members, in charge of hanging all the exhibits at the gallery. My Voice runs May 9—June 2, with a reception May 18, 4-6pm.
Gallery 621, 309 First Street, Thurs-Sun 12-6pm. Gallery621.com