Art & Craft

Mixed media artist combines styles to explore identity

By Jessica Laskey
April 2023

Davy Fiveash is never not creating. When I catch up with him by phone, I hear telltale scratchings of a paintbrush on canvas while we chat.

“I picked up crayons like every kid does and then I didn’t put them down,” Fiveash says of his lifelong love of art and craft. “I always knew I wanted to be an artist.”

On this day, Fiveash is in his East Sacramento studio working on his newest piece, a large-scale, mixed-media painting based on his childhood titled “The Evangelicals.”

As a kid growing up in Valdosta, Georgia, Fiveash was exposed to art through his mom, an avid crafter. He recalls staying up late watching old movies while she crafted and he drew. Today, Fiveash considers his artwork a mashup of craft or folk art. He uses fabric and other “less specific” materials and methods, and traditional media such as oil paint.

“Those early influences really matter,” says Fiveash, who left Valdosta to make art in Atlanta. He moved to Boston to earn a diploma at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts and eventually an MFA at San Francisco Art Institute.

“Craft was what I saw, so that’s what I thought art was. I started rediscovering my appreciation for craft in art school. I wanted to learn to be a really good painter, but craft kept coming back. It bonds me to home,” he says.

Religion bonds Fiveash to Valdosta and heavily influences his art. As the son of a fundamentalist preacher, Fiveash spent at least three days a week in church drawing while listening to his dad preach.

“As a little queer boy being taught how to be righteous, I learned that being gay was the opposite of that. There was a lot of turmoil in my head,” Fiveash says. “There’s a real combination of religion and inner turmoil in my art, especially in my latest series, ‘Sunday School.’”

Rabbits, lambs, deer and flowers play into his compositions, both as allegory and reflections of the natural beauty he started to appreciate after being hit by a car in San Francisco in 2010.

“It took a lot of recovery and I started to re-evaluate what was important to me, which came out in my art,” Fiveash says. “Flowers are gorgeous but difficult to paint. They don’t do anything but grow up, give us beauty, then die.”

The breadth of Fiveash’s work has earned him fans in the Bay Area and Sacramento. He’s had work accepted into several exhibitions, including back-to-back juried staff shows at the deYoung Museum, Crocker Art Auction, PBS KVIE Art Auction and Crocker-Kingsley at Blueline Arts.

It was through the PBS KVIE auction that he met D. Oldham Neath, KVIE’s then-art curator, who liked Fiveash’s work. She asked him to bring some pieces to Archival Gallery, a gallery and frame shop she runs in East Sac. She has represented him ever since. He painted a mural of oversized blooms, titled “Providence,” on one of the gallery’s exterior walls as part of Sacramento Mural Alley.

The scratching of paintbrush on canvas catches my attention again.

“I’m painting a rooster for ‘The Evangelicals,’” Fiveash explains. “This is the biggest work I’ve ever made. It’s taller than me! Fundamentalist ideals I struggled with as a kid are starting to re-emerge in politics, so I’m incorporating that into my work. Those experiences have turned into something I can make art about for a really long time.”

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Jessica Laskey can be reached at Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.

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