b. 1958, Toronto
Moyra Davey was born in Toronto in 1958. She earned a BFA from Concordia University in Montreal in 1982 and an MFA from the University of California, San Diego, in 1988. Davey’s photographs of familiar objects—coins, kitchen shelves, a turntable needle, stacks of books, clumps of dust gathered along the floor—document the traces of day-to-day life and encourage viewers to contemplate small details that are often overlooked. In this respect, Davey’s photographs evoke our inchoate thoughts and experiences and have been singled out for their meditative effect.
A writer as well as a photographer, Davey is the author of The Problem of Reading (2003) and the editor of Mother Reader: Essential Writings on Motherhood (2001). Her engagement with reading and writing is key to her artistic practice. The precision of the macro lens she uses in her photography heightens the desire for close, deliberate, and considered viewing that is akin to being absorbed by a good book. Davey avoids making large prints, which she finds “awkward and ungainly,” and has said that her favorite format for looking at photographs is in books.¹ Davey’s photographic series include Copperheads (1990), which focuses on pennies, and 32 Photographs from Paris (2009), which depicts tombstones, coffee cups, maps, and clocks. She has also made the videos Fifty Minutes (2006) and My Necropolis (2009), the latter of which juxtaposes footage of gravesites of famous Parisian intellectuals (Gertrude Stein, Jean-Paul Sartre) with readings of a letter from Walter Benjamin in which he discusses a clock seen from his apartment window as a “luxury.”
Davey has had solo exhibitions at venues that include Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, Massachusetts (2008); Murray Guy, New York (2009); and Kunsthalle Basel (2010). Her group exhibitions include Bottle: Contemporary Art and Vernacular Tradition, Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield, Connecticut (2004); When Artists Say We, Artists Space, New York (2006); Photography on Photography: Reflections on the Medium since 1960, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (2008); and Mixed Use, Museo nacional centro de arte Reina Sofía, Madrid (2010). In 2004 she was awarded the Anonymous Was a Woman Award. She currently lives and works in New York.
1. Jess T. Dugan, “A Conversation with Moyra Davey,” Big Red & Shiny, April 1, 2008 (accessed October 4, 2010).