saguaro in bloom, palomas plain, arizona 2021 - 5x4 platinum palladium and palladium print - edition of 3 - ©scott b davis, Courtesy Marshall Gallery, Santa Monica

‘Sonora’ by Scott B. Davis @ Marshall Gallery, Santa Monica

December 15, 2021

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry claimed that perfection is achieved when there is nothing more to take away. How, do we then confront Mr. Davis’s approach to the Sonoran desert with his photography? No doubt the demands for contemporary photography is to consistently diverge from the amateur, now with photo-processing capabilities reserved historically for true savants. A natural rendering does not, perhaps, inspire enough artistic fulfillment as the realistic portraitures, dating even before the emergence of this technological artistic medium. There must be something more that is necessary.

ridgeline looking west and south, copper mountains, arizona 2018 – 8×10 platinum palladium prints – ©scott b davis, Courtesy Marshall Gallery, Santa Monica

And yet, what a counter-intuitive step Mr. Davis takes in a reduction of the natural forms he is recording and crafting with his palladium alchemy. Mr. Scott delivers us the starkest contrasts of lines found in the desert wilderness. Such a continuum, so outstretched before us when there is nothing left to take away from the monochromatic simplicity, provides for us its own mathematical beauty. This is a cerebral posture, indeed an abstract realization of what would otherwise be patently physically recognizable. To be sure, I was initially disappointed in not being bludgeoned with a passionate sensation. This is no hair-metal concert, but an austere celloist meticulously perceiving this landscape in a way never before conceived, let alone considered. It is not intuitive, in other words, to eliminate natural light and its reflectance from a photographic composition. If anything, there is constant demand for embellishments, to pique that scintillating reflex for more, not less. And yet, is that the goal for being human? More and more self-centered amusement?

ocotillo, arizona upland 2013 16×20 platinum palladium ©scott b davis, Courtesy Marshall Gallery, Santa Monica

black mesa, western arizona, 2020 – 4×5 palladium prints – ©scott b davis, Courtesy Marshall Gallery, Santa Monica

I would classify this work to be a solemn introspection of the parched Arizona desert, and the objects that persist in a place scarcely inhabited for eons. It is so distant from the merchandisers entertaining arena of non-stop gratification; do the works reflect on this, not escape but, release from the clutches of buy buy buy? Probably not, as the artist is too focused on creating a novel natural appearance before us. And its novelty is what is open for interpretation, in the contemporary context of being awash in metropolitan decadence. It would be poetic, however, if this is a silent hymn to nature’s beauty, filtered to us through a masterful artisan’s hands, about the need for modest contentment in our very own landscapes.


Available at:

Marshall Gallery

2525 Michigan Ave. #A6

Santa Monica, CA 90404


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