Even as a child, Carrie Mason Davis knew she would be an artist. She never considered another career and enjoyed exploring all types of art, thinking outside the box and creativity.
As an adult, Davis has been a very prolific, primarily abstract artist for a long time.
“Making art is like another language,” she said. “It’s a natural form … the most special way … of communication for me. It’s a way of expressing on a much deeper level than just speaking.”
Through her art, Davis communicates life experiences, the things she has learned and inspiration that she gets from the Bible. She said her painting also communicates “what God has done in my life, the ways God has grown me and changed me. Often it’s the most terrible things that have produced the most beautiful, wonderful things.”
“All of my work is biblical in theme because I am a Christian," Davis said. "I have been a Christ follower for a long time and I read my Bible every day.”
Her painting may be completely abstract with no recognizable object. But Davis said that when making that piece, for her it could be specifically about “God making beauty from ashes (or about) Christ’s power being made perfect in my weakness.”
Another concept expressed in nonobjective forms in her work is forgiveness.
Davis often goes for inspiration to a favorite biblical scripture depicting how God found Israel in a desert land or wilderness and cared for the nation as an eagle carrying its young. She said, “It’s a touching and, I think, accurate view of how God is with us, even when we fail or our life falls apart.”
“Painting for me is much a part of worship just like prayer or singing songs or any other forms of worship," Davis said. "It is an expression of the things that God has done and the great works that he has done in my life and also for his glory.”
The reorganized prayer room committee of Tyler’s First Baptist Church turned to Davis as it considered what to put in an empty wall space in the church’s prayer room that the committee had redecorated and refurbished.
Explaining that the prayer room is a place where people come to pray for those in the hospital, for missions, special needs, the bereaved and other concerns, Chairwoman Martha Cook said, “We wanted the perfect painting to depict what we were about.”
Although various places in the Bible mention that prayer is like incense in heaven to God, the committee asked Davis to create a painting depicting Psalm 141:2. It states, “May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting of my hands be like the evening sacrifice.”
The painting that Davis created shows a lot of uplifted hands to God, some of them sort of silhouettes, and has a light color that has an essence of incense with a look of a little smoke that is meant to have an abstract quality as well.
Davis said the emphasis is on the color and the movement of the paint, capturing a sense of presence in reference to the Holy Spirit and God during prayer.
“I wanted the main emphasis to be on the unseen … the sense of presence that prayers are creating and (that they) are part of a connection and that God hears every prayer,” Davis said.
The prayer room chairwoman, who had described to the artist what was in her mind for the picture, said Davis “went way beyond that. We (committee members) thought what she created was beautiful.”
Cook described Davis as “an inspired artist and a wonderful Christian.” Her paintings, Cook said, “are very heartfelt. She puts her heart into it. It’s a precious gift that she has.”
The prayer room committee offered to pay Davis for the painting, but she would not accept it and instead donated the painting.
It marked the third time that Davis has given some of her art work to First Baptist Church.
Another of her paintings is an abstract piece about the second coming of Jesus on the clouds. Hanging near an entrance to the sanctuary, it shows the essence of a figure with white light and predominant clouds. There are subtle references to the Garden of Eden and Heaven.
“I love Jesus, but I would never try to paint his face or him at all because I don’t know what he looked like in the physical form when he walked the earth,” Davis said.
She donated the painting a couple of years ago before Easter as a visual sensory experience for viewers at the request of her Sunday school leader. At the time, different Sunday school classes were in charge of a certain phase in a program called “Pathway to the Cross.”
Davis based her painting of Jesus’ second coming on biblical scripture, Matthew 24:64, which states, “In the future you will see the Son of Man seated in the place of power at God’s right hand and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
Several years ago when the preschool area of First Baptist was remodeled and needed color, Davis created upon request four huge abstract pieces that show trees in the four seasons for the space.
Those paintings are based on verses in the books of Jeremiah and Isaiah in the Bible. The Isaiah scripture states, “They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.”
Davis did not set out to put her artwork in the church, but people asked her to create the paintings. “It’s a real joy to contribute my gifts and I was happy to give back to the church family that has invested much in me over the years,” she said.
Raised in Tyler, Davis said First Baptist is “at the top of my list of special places.”
“Many of my most important moments happened there, like I decided to live my life for Christ and was baptized there," she said. "I grew up learning about the Bible and listening on the church steps to the children’s sermon. My husband and I met there. We got married there and now my children are doing those things.”
Davis may finish a painting in a day or take years to complete one. She works on different scales, from small pieces to large-scale works and everything in between. She usually has many pieces underway at once because she learns from having a whole series going. She may paint in the art studio of her Tyler home or go to almost every room in the house to paint in a different light and space. A modest abstract artist, Davis may not sign a painting.
Davis does some artwork almost every day, usually painting, but it may be a drawing or it could be research or other activity. Mostly she uses acrylic paint because of its versatility, but also uses watercolor in different ways and lately has begun using acrylic ink.
A lot of times, Davis paints in a layered, process-oriented approach and may leave raw space on the canvas. She works hard on a piece, steps back, then may decide to take a different path or just respond to what she has. Her painting may involve making marks — aggressive marks or subtle, graceful marks — in a visual language to viewers.
“I hope it is always very authentic and honest," Davis said of her paintings. "I don’t ever try to copy a style. It’s very original. The work itself is a reflection of real-life experiences. There (also) is an element of discovery and research in every piece.”
Davis taught full time at The Brook Hill School in Bullard some years back and now sometimes teaches a small art class in her home studio for adults and home-schooled teenagers.
“I love helping other people become successful in their artwork,” she said.
Just as she did as a child, Davis still sees art in small, insignificant objects and has the habit of collecting them. As a youngster, she collected rocks, acorns, pieces of metal, broken pieces of toys, ticket stubs and other items.
“They inspired my artwork in ways I didn’t realize at the time,” she said.
Davis always made art. With a laugh, she recalled having drawn on the walls of her parents’ home, saying she was probably in middle school at the time and “old enough to know better.”
Even now her collecting of things like a feather or a leaf is a source of art inspiration.
From her childhood ventures into art, Davis elected to take art in middle school and at Robert E. Lee High School, then studied at Baylor University and later transferred to the University of Texas at Tyler, where she earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts and engaged in a year of graduate study.
Although Davis incorporates her artwork daily into her life, she said her top priority is being a wife and stay-at-home mom to the couple’s three children — a sixth-grade boy, a fourth-grade girl and a first-grade girl.
She enjoys having the kids with her when she makes art and also enjoys being part of what they are doing.
“It is an extreme joy for me,” Davis said of being a wife and mother.