Lynchburg Living Editor Shelley Basinger: Christina, you made headlines in June for your mural on 13th Street, “Make Waves,” that was created right at the height of local demonstrations about racism. How did you learn about the blank wall at Hill City Hardwoods?
Christina Davis: At first I was tagged on the social media post and then the owner, Randy Smith, ended up messaging me directly. We have been trying to get together on a project for awhile but the timing wasn’t right since I just had my daughter a couple of years ago. We agreed, “Let’s do it now. It’s so needed.”
SB: This all happened pretty quickly, right?
CD: It did—we tried not to procrastinate because we really saw this mural as an opportunity to join in on what was happening in our nation and community. With assistance from family and Randy, we spent about four days working on the mural—which included scraping and fixing up the wall. It might have taken less time if it weren’t for the heat. We worked mostly in the morning before it got too hot.
SB: Tell me a little bit about the mural. Who is it we see there?
CD: A lot of my work exhibited at the Academy Center of the Arts and other local places is portrait work—animals and people. A lot of my portrait pieces are almost like a self-portrait, because artists always put a little of themselves into everything they create. I wanted every black woman to feel represented as beautiful, strong members in our social and family circles. So this piece is coming from the community—a positive visual of a black woman and the role models we can find in our own community. “Black Girl Magic” can happen in small towns and we don’t always have to look to big time stars for that.
SB: She appears to be swept up into water. Why did you portray her in that way?
CD: More like she is setting it in motion. It’s a play on the social media movement we are seeing right now—people tagging and passing things along, tagging other women and uplifting them. “Make Waves” is just like when a hashtag goes viral, and we were hoping that would happen with #blackgirlmagic—that other people would take their own pictures and use their own visuals. Water is constantly in motion and we hope that the current Black Lives Matter movement keeps flowing as well. It is one powerful way to spread a message with almost little to no words.
SB: Personally, why did you feel a need to tackle this project?
CD: As a black art teacher and a woman having grown up here, I think our voices are very important and need to be heard. As an art teacher, you wouldn’t believe the things I have heard children say about race. I believe we are seeing the result of being silent. Generations before me were often silent or turned the other cheek, and over the past 100 years that’s proven it does not work. But I must point out this is not an angry piece. I’m trying to speak my thoughts and reach out in a strong visual way.
SB: What’s next for you?
CD: I work with lots of local camps (Blue Ridge Montessori school, Discovery Kids, Jubilee, etc.) teaching art classes, so that will be a large part of my summer. But I plan to do three more murals this summer and they are going to be in spaces that the community can see.