March 20, 2024

Interview with Kephira Davis

In an illuminating conversation with GCCA’s Gallery Director, 2024 Brandon Fellow Kephira Davis provides insight into the Brandon Fellowship at GCCA, the evolution of her art practice, and the profound influence of family on her artwork. As she continues to navigate her Fellowship experience until August, her dedication to authenticity and meaningful storytelling shines through, promising a future in the world of contemporary art.

Kephira in studio. Photo credit: Gwinn Davis. 


Ben Tarcson, Gallery Director: Kephira, could you provide a snapshot of where you are in regards to your journey within the Brandon Fellowship?

Kephira Davis: Throughout all the experiences I have been exposed to, between jumping into teaching for the first time, creating designs for murals, or getting into my first solo exhibition, I have found that my main interest lies in the dynamic between being a full-time artist and gallery work. Half way through my Fellowship, I have my first solo exhibition at the Warehouse Theatre opening on April 4th, which I am very excited for! I also had the opportunity to join this year’s community gallery review committee at GCCA where I served as a panelist choosing the upcoming exhibition schedule through August 2025. Another new opportunity arose where the other Fellows and I have been given the opportunity to curate an online exhibition through GCCA that will open in July. 


Ben Tarcson, Gallery Director: Have there been any moments or experiences during your Fellowship that may have opened new doorways for you career-wise? 

Kephira Davis: I did not expect to like teaching children. The Brandon Fellowship has given me the opportunity to teach after-school workshops through GCCA’s Aspiring Artist program at two of our local community centers.  Initially, the idea of teaching was daunting and scary. I didn’t want to mess up but I quickly learned how impactful my artistic knowledge was on shifting the children’s perspective on how they can creatively problem solve and make art. From these workshops, I have actually started teaching workshops at Wine and Paint establishments now too. On a separate note, it has been very odd that I am getting recognized as both a Brandon Fellow and visual artist around Greenville. Not that getting recognized is a bad thing but it was shocking at first. I have better adjusted to that now and I am excited for all the new opportunities for collaborations, commissions, and future exhibitions that are ahead of me. 


Ben Tarcson, Gallery Director: Your artwork often explores themes of family and the Black female experience. What inspires these themes, and how do they manifest in your work?

Kephira Davis: I have many inspirations that inform my work but to give you one, I pull a lot of inspiration from photographer, Rashad Taylor. He documents his son with his camera and he examines themes of race, culture, family, and legacy and his images are a kind of family album. His images tell more than a family story; they’re a window into the Black American experience. These are themes that I talk about in my work, but with more emphasis on the experience of Black women in America and even more specifically Black female gaze. In my case, I explore the dynamics of familial experiences and the idea of growing up, maturing, and feeling the slow, bittersweet “slipping away” from family as we get older. As I have gotten older I feel it is easier and quicker to get frustrated with family than it is to be real, open and truthful with them. In my newer works, I paint my family members pulling on references from family albums photographs. The way the female figures gaze into the camera is critical for me. I find moments of complexity in their emotions and their expression often can be very relatable or taken vastly out of context. It is important that feelings of joy, anger, or frustration are blurred just as memories of the stories told about these moments may be obscured.  It is not my intention to make political statements with these works but I recognize that those politics exist and can be drawn upon. 


Ben Tarcson, Gallery Director: Have you noticed any shifts in your approach to art since joining the Fellowship program? 

Kephira Davis: When I first came into the Fellowship, I felt like I was making safe artwork. Meaning that the artwork looked technically sound and pleasing to the eye but the concepts were vague enough that I could get away with avoiding true criticism. In my research about my family since getting my studio, I came to the realization that I have a responsibility to represent my community and uplift future generations. I don’t want to hold back now with regards to how the work is received, rather I want to make art that thoughtfully and directly represents my family and community with purpose.   


Ben Tarcson, Gallery Director: Each year, the Brandon Fellows participate in a Main Gallery exhibition in August & September. Notably, each Fellow has worked tirelessly to prepare for what they will have on display. Looking ahead to your Brandon Fellowship exhibition at GCCA in August, what can visitors anticipate?

Kephira Davis: I plan to paint 5 or more portraits of varying scale that show the relationship between two or more family figures. These paintings specifically will reference family photos where the figures are neither smiling or frowning. Their gaze has an expressed ambiguity to suggest emotions and memories of these moments are more complex than what they appear. I will be pulling from family photo albums on both my mom and dad’s side of the family. 


Be sure to visit Kephira in her studio at GCCA and follow her on social media to tag along in her journey through the Brandon Fellowship this year:
Instagram: CLICK HERE
Facebook: CLICK HERE


Anyone interested in applying for the Brandon Fellowship, please make sure to subscribe to GCCA’s emails to be notified when the call for application opens in June! Any questions can be directed to Gallery Director, Ben Tarcson at