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Unitarian Windows

Unitarian windows

A collaboration yields a classical form.
By Marlon Davidson And Don Knudson And Kenneth Sutton
Summer 2011 5.15.11

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Unitarian Windows. © 2009 Marlon Davidson and Don Knudson. Mixed media, 40 x 20 inches.

Marlon Davidson and Don Knudson have independent careers, Knudson as a wood sculptor, furniture maker, window display artist, and carpenter, and Davidson as a painter and collage artist. Their relationship as artists and as life partners spans a period of more than fifty years. For about twenty years they have also been producing collaborations such as Unitarian Windows. Lifelong Minnesotans, they were founding members of Headwaters Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Bemidji, Minnesota.

Their collaborations, writes Davidson, “are made from wood, paper, paint, ink: in other words, they are mixed-media expressions. They vary in size from a few inches to several feet. People often ask me, ‘Who starts first?’ The fact is that it happens both ways, I sometimes will produce some collage forms, and at that point we take a look at possible overall shapes, how the work will be realized. Don will put some peeled poplar wood into a configuration, and the piece slowly grows. Sometimes he begins with a form, and I respond with collage shapes. Often we will make a working drawing and use it as a guide as we work.

“One of the most important art principles in our work is repetition. The dominating element is probably color, although texture and line are also apparent and important in the way we create the overall design. Is it harmonious? We hope so. Is it challenging and complex? Yes, we want that to happen. Sometimes we have to make corrections. A few times, not many over the years, I have pulled off the entire collage area and redesigned it. We work toward perfection, but human endeavors are never completely perfect. Persian carpet-makers included an intentional mistake in their masterful rugs so as not to design an affront to the Creator.

“We never give names to our work until the collaboration is finished. At that point, we put the work up and sit down and talk about it. ‘What does it mean?’ ‘Is there a message, or is this just a pure arrangement of shapes and colors?’ After some conversation and agreement, we find a title for the piece.

“In the case of Unitarian Windows, I remember, the first comment that one of us made was, ‘The basic shape is classical, like a temple or a church.’ One of us said, ‘And the windows make it look more like a church.’ The conversation went on, ‘Well if it’s a church, it has to be Unitarian, and that fits because Unitarianism has its roots and its foundation in classic philosophy and humanism.’ So we agreed to call this work of art Unitarian Windows.”

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