Born in 1942, Stan Davis grew up near Tallahassee, Florida. Throughout his childhood, he nurtured an interest in Native American culture. He and his friends would play "Cowboys and Indians" and comb the local beaches for pottery shards, arrowheads, and other artifacts surviving from pre-Colombian indigenous settlements.
Davis showed a propensity for drawing from an early age. With his family's support, he attended every art class he could, eventually graduating with honors from the Ringling School of Art in Sarasota, Florida.
After a year spent working for an advertising agency in Coco Beach, Florida, Davis joined the Air Force. He was discharged in 1968 and moved to Los Angeles, where he became the art director for a large advertising agency. He started his own agency in the mid-1970's, and although this required him to adopt a largely administrative role, he continued to draw and paint in his free time.
In 1979 Davis visited several art galleries in Scottsdale, Arizona, and was inspired to create Native American-themed art. Returning to Los Angeles, he initially looked to stills and outtakes from Western movies as starting points for subject material, but soon realized that Hollywood was not the best source to rely on for historical accuracy. Davis had better luck when he visited a costumer's shop run by a husband and wife team, who specialized in creating Native American costumes for local movie studios. Under their tutelage, Davis studied the clothing techniques of various Native American tribes and learned how to make historically and culturally authentic clothes of his own.
Davis visited museums to study the artifacts and artwork of the Blackfeet tribe, and traveled throughout the American Northwest and Canada to gain perspective on the environment where the Northern Plains Indians lived. Back in Los Angeles, he hired aspiring Native American actors to work as models, and began to paint while continuing to work full time at his advertising agency. Two years later, he took his 25 best paintings and plunged into the art market, which at the time was especially prosperous. Demand for his work was high, and Davis quickly became a success. He eventually left the advertising business and returned to his native Florida, where he continues to live and paint.
Davis paints in a photo-realist style, specializing in portraying scenes of the Blackfeet Indians as they lived during the 19th century. He has also depicted the Sioux and Cheyenne. Davis hand-makes every costume featured in his paintings, to ensure historical and cultural accuracy in his work. He paints primarily in oils.
The Pearce Western Art Collection holds two paintings by Davis, The Apotheosis of EE-NEV-AH and The Prayer Feather.
Text by Aubrey Carrier, Archives Intern Summer 2003
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Navarro College, Corsicana, Texas. Site last updated January 2004.