Artist otherwise Known As…Izzy Davila ’16

A screenshot from Davila’s performance piece of him moving naked and covered in vaseline. Photo courtesy of Izzy Davila
A screenshot from Davila’s performance piece of him moving naked and covered in vaseline. Photo courtesy of Izzy Davila

You may know Izzy Davila ’16 by his chiseled features, eclectic sense of style and effervescent personality; or perhaps you’ve heard of the personal records he’s been running on the track lately in the 400-meter hurdles. But while running is a big part of his life, the sophomore studio art major does not let his sport define him by any means. He has, in fact, dedicated his studies at the College to the pursuit of critical and experimental engagement with art through a variety of media, including performance, sculpture, video and more. He strives most of all to stimulate intellectual engagement with the viewer, all the while embarking on an exploration of himself and the world around him.
Davila’s first interactions with art were through the familiar medium of advertisements. “I really liked the aesthetics of fashion advertising … both photos and magazine advertisements of clothes and people in fantastical settings.” Davila views advertisements through the lens “of a thinker and a dreamer.” However, he had never thought about art in a formal sense before coming to the College as a first-year – Davila had been planning on becoming a biology major and following the pre-med track. He has since realized that his true passions lie in the arts, and has jumped into this new field with gusto and dedication.
Last semester, he discovered the power of performance art through the junior seminar studio course, in which he had to create a piece centered around the theme of “embodiment and disembodiment.” Davila chose to represent this idea by constructing a womb-like space out of black garbage bags that the viewer needed to crawl into in order to properly experience the piece. The participant would then emerge in an open space to find Davila lying face-down, naked, on the ground, covered in vaseline and illuminated by a blacklight moving different parts of his body in isolation to a blaring, disconcerting beat. The purpose of the work was to comment on the naked body, shame and the introduction of an outsider into a very personal space, confronting any feelings of otherness or alienation.
His work as a whole is also partially a backlash against the frustration that Davila feels with the immediacy in advertising, as it’s been gradually training the casual consumer to reject anything that he or she cannot understand at face value. “You need to see something that makes you uncomfortable, ask yourself why it makes you uncomfortable, and then figure that out … to deconstruct what the artist has set up for you to deconstruct. In that regard, I feel like people just don’t get it on this campus, but that’s also what most of the real world is like!”
Davila has fallen in love with fashion film. Fashion film is a newer method of advertising where a visceral and captivating narrative is used to leave the viewer with a lasting impression of a certain brand or collection. Davila spends his free time making avant-garde “fashion films” of his own, pairing up-close-and-personal slow motion video clips of friends with electronic rock artists.
Davila is a recent recipient of the Wilmers summer travel fellowship, and will be spending this summer in Tokyo photographing street-style fashion, in order to explore the motives behind what we in the Western world see as exceedingly eccentric styles of dress. The prospect of this journey is daunting, especially since Davila doesn’t speak Japanese, but he’s excited nonetheless.
Davila’s fascination with fashion advertising may seem ironic when his desire to produce intellectual, original works is juxtaposed with the in-your-face commercial nature of most ads. However, he plans on using his education and experience to promote the kind of intellectual engagement and close-look in the commercial world that he’s been thriving on his entire life. “The big question for many artists is, of course, ‘How do I make money?’ … Hopefully I can get into an established place where I can contract myself to work with both businesses and brands, but also have a voice of my own, and also represent the voices of other people,” he said. He would like to be a creative director in the fashion advertising industry, working to conceptualize the mood and the brand of a designer in new and innovative ways, through film or otherwise.
Next year, Davila will be studying abroad in London, and plans “to sharpen my skills in the media I see fit for myself, meet people, and keep learning – to continue to learn about myself and the people around me, and have fun,” he said. Quite simply, Davila does what he wants and moves deliberately and boldly in the direction of his dreams, leaving members of the College community with a powerful lesson to be learned from Davila in their understanding of the art world.