To keep his brain sharp, Middle Village resident and retiree, Ron Davis, regularly completes crosswords. And then of course, there are the jigsaw puzzles. Boxes upon boxes of jigsaw puzzles.
Never one to be solely satisfied by completing the pre-packaged version, Davis re-purposes finished puzzles by combining pieces from several of them to create unique vibrant works of abstract art.
He hopes to exhibit his work in galleries after he completes 21, a great feat especially considering that since he first began the project in 2009, he has suffered a heart attack and stroke.
Then again, Davis has been waiting for the moment to pursue his art for the past 68 years. As he says of his stroke, “It slowed me down, but didn’t stop me.”
The revamped pieces are more like collages than mosaics, with each piece perfectly interlocking with another despite its being from different puzzles. Davis found out that one company manufactured the same patterns, meaning that he could pick and choose between several puzzles to reinterpret an image. For example, “Antiarctica” uses a photo of emperor penguins, which are never found in the Antarctic and interlaces the scene with images of warmer weather.
Another titled, “My Love Piece,” features the words “Love” and “Peace,” a homage to his hippie days. Each work wastes no space, popping with color, a reflection of the colorful life Davis has led.
Davis spent the first 13 years of his life in the Lower East Side but then moved to Hollis following his brother’s death. As an adult, he was drafted into the Army, spending part of his four years of service in Alaska and then marrying in 1972.
Until 1997, he remained a married post office worker with three kids living in Jamaica and Maspeth. During those 25 years, he recalls fond memories of teaching his kids art techniques, which he in part learned from his father, who, though he was a published cartoonist, always struggled for recognition. Although he’s seen the difficulties of the struggling artist, he always encouraged it in his children.
“The worst mistake was to show them how to make block letters,” Davis says with a laugh. His oldest son, Stephen, has previously exhibited his work at the former 5Pointz arts space in Long Island City.
On his table stand today is a framed mosaic he made of postage stamps in 1976 and on his wall, a framed abstract work of intertwined shapes, the few pieces he’s done while work and family took priority.
A year after his retirement in 2008, Davis suffered the stroke and decided to use his art project as art therapy.
The stroke had damaged his left side, which for the left-handed Davis meant he had to force himself to use that hand to superglue each chosen piece on a 22-by 26-inch frame, a labor-intensive process that took months for each work.
Six years later, Davis has completed 16 pieces and arbitrarily chose 21 as the final number to end the project. What he finds most important is exposing his art in the hopes that it will inspire youth.
For him, inspirations for the art range from simply wanting to add life into a dull train image to creating a piece titled, “Claire’s Garden,” dedicated to his new companion. The images vary greatly from the penguins to a forest burning, but for a man finally fulfilling his passion, they represent a life fulfilled.
“I guess you can say there’s a piece of me in every one,” Davis said, again with a chuckle. For more information on his work, contact Ron Davis at (718) 505-0844.