Honoring the Ancestors: Bing’s Birthday Card

Jun 29, 2014

We see the work of Dayton artist Willis “Bing” Davis hanging in banks, boardrooms, libraries, and concert halls throughout the Miami Valley. His art is full of color and movement, and is based on themes he’s been exploring for decades.

Archives Fellow Jocelyn Robinson found a 1981 interview with Bing Davis in the archives here at WYSO. And to celebrate the artist’s 76th birthday she some of the original recording and brings us up to date with the artist’s signature series.

Oil pastels in Bing's West Third Street studio at the Ebonia Gallery.
Credit Jocelyn Robinson / WYSO

When artist and educator Bing Davis returned from a study trip to West Africa in the mid 1970s, he didn’t know he’d embark on a series of drawings that would span nearly four decades. They’re called Ancestral Spirit Dances, and even back then it was clear he was working from a deep well of inspiration. In the summer of 1981, WYSO reporter Sherry Novick did a feature story on Bing. At that time, he’d completed several dozen of these pieces for a solo exhibit at the Dayton Art Institute.

Now, in 2014, Bing has created nearly 500 pieces in the series and plans more as he continues to teach, mentor, and make art in his Wright-Dunbar neighborhood.

I visited him at his studio in the Ebonia Gallery, a sunny storefront on West Third Street, where he worked on the latest drawing, a large oil pastel. He approached it reverently, his movements rhythmic and deliberate as he applied strokes of orange and blue to the black paper. Bing Davis spoke of the personal and professional significance of the Ancestral Spirit Dance series.

Djembe music performed by Birch Robinson-Hubbuch.

Major funding for Rediscovered Radio is provided by the Ohio Humanities Council and the Greene County Public Library.