Democrat senior writer
If you met Joe Davis in a dimly-lit bar somewhere along the Tennessee Street Strip, you might mistake him for a charmingly brain-addled drifter or a retired academic eccentric who now lives right on the fringes of society.
His hair is a messy tumbleweed and his conversations about physics, genetics, biotechnology, astronomy and art are just as wild and tangled as his locks. You are never quite sure if he is deadly serious or putting you on. Of course, it helps that his wooden peg leg gives him the aura of a Capt. Ahab on a heroic quest for the truth.
Joe Davis is not an easy man to forget.
Meet the man in all his contradictory glory during a screening of the thoroughly engaging documentary and personality profile “Heaven + Earth + Joe Davis” today at All Saints Cinema. Davis and the film’s director, Peter Sasowsky, will be on hand to conduct a Q&A session with the audience after the screening.
The visit is being held in conjunction with the ongoing exhibit, “Heads, Shoulders, Genes & Toes,” on display at the Florida State Museum of Fine Arts. It opened in February as part of the Seven Days of Opening Nights arts festival.
It might not come as too big of a surprise that Sasowsky first met Davis in a bar in Boston. Davis was washing dishes in the kitchen, in part as a zen exercise and, in part, to earn his dinner.
“Heaven + Earth + Joe Davis” follows Davis’ unorthodox academic career. More than 30 years ago, Davis came clomping down the halls of the Center for Advanced Visual Studies at MIT and wanted to know why the guys in the ivory tower had not returned his repeated phone calls. They called the cops. However, nearly an hour later, after Davis turned on his intellect and personality, he hobbled out with an academic appointment.
His projects have included encoding written poetry into DNA, channeling lightning bolts into towering sculptures and recording the vaginal contractions of ballerinas from the Boston Ballet. Stop snickering. He then beamed the recordings into outer space because the first drawn image of a woman that was sent into outer space on the Pioneer Plaque showed a female who had no genitalia. Maybe that’s what makes the aliens from outer space so probe-happy when it comes to humans, Davis figured? Stop snickering, please.
The Air Force was not amused by Davis’ “Poeticea Vaginal” broadcast and shut it down. That happens a lot, too, with Davis, who has never found a boundary that he is not afraid to push. Unfortunately, being a non-conformist thinker does not pay well and he is always one step away from an eviction notice.
Too bad the art-loving Medici patrons are all gone because Davis is one artistphilosopher- thinker who would be worth having on the payroll.
He’s no angel: Joe Davis is an artist, philosopher, scientist and thinker. He is not afraid to shake things up.
PETER SASOWSKY/SERIOUS MOTION PICTURES