How This Artist Explores American Storytelling Across Time

Paige Simianer | May 11, 2023

Learn how this artist explores the American experience through time (and technology).

A native of Sweden, Featured Artist Kris Davidson spent the first half of her childhood in the Scandinavian subarctic and the second half in Texas. 

After 15 years as an editorial photographer, Kris is now a full-time lens-based artist. With an immigrant gaze, she considers the American experience, focusing on storytelling across the past, present, and future. She uses collage and mixed media on photographic prints to explore storytelling and memory across deep time. 

"If I were to distill my creative life down to a single word, it would be translation. My longest-running act of translation began at age nine when my family left the snow-covered Swedish subarctic for Texas. As we stepped off the plane in Dallas, everything shifted," Davidson reflects.

"Everything we had known had to be translated to fit this new place: our language, our food, our clothes, the stories we had carried with us. I have spent years crisscrossing the shifting chasm known to all immigrants. I understand that in all acts of translation, new meanings are forged, just as others are lost," she says.

We got the chance to chat with Kris Davidson about her creative process, the meaning behind her work, and exciting upcoming projects on the horizon!

You can see more of her work on Discovery and learn more about her art practice below. 

Kris Davidson,'Ocean Beach Timescape', detail of 'Ocean Beach Timescape' 15in x 15in 

Has your work changed over time—do you find yourself understanding your art career through different periods of expression? 

For about 15 years, I worked as a photojournalist shooting editorial work, mostly for magazines.

It was a wondrous career that took me all over the world—I do regard that work as something of an extended training for the artwork I am doing now.

My editorial instinct for research and for immersing in subculture runs deep in my current art-oriented work of considering the American experience across time.

But, I have stopped doing assignment work, which is a highly collaborative process between a photographer, writer, and editorial team. Now, my work has a solo voice (my own), and as my thinking evolves, is being refined all the time.


You use collage and mixed media on photographic prints to explore storytelling and memory across deep time. Can you walk us through your creative process, from concept to finished piece?

In my work, I'm primarily concerned with how American stories are translated across time.

America’s storytelling tradition is expansive—born out of countless colliding, merging, and overlapping storylines.

Stories are the pillars of the self, showing us who have been, who we are now, and who we are becoming — and yet, stories are intangible as they slide across time, shapeshifting between fact and fiction.

My work in investigating the lifecycles of American stories across time has pulled me towards the dizzying specter of deep time as I attempt to gaze thousands of years into both the past and future.

Scientists have not yet reached a consensus on what time is. Some, like Einstein and Hawking, have suggested that all time already exists and that we might be caught in an infinite instant that already includes our future.

I've turned to collaging photographs—slicing and re-organizing slivers of frozen time—to explore how our stories might exist indefinitely across deep time. I do this across several different projects.

My hope is that these temporal juxtapositions might be understood as a flattening of the past, present, and future into something resembling an infinite instant. I hope to encourage insights about what we, as the current custodians of this time and place, might owe our descendants.

Our story is also their story.

Kris Davidson, 'Atchafalaya Timescape', 15in x 15in 

You mention that you’ll be joining an analog Mars mission this year as a crew journalist/photographer. How exciting! How do you anticipate this experience will influence your artistic perspective, and what kind of work do you plan to create based on this experience?

I will be on Mars on Earth (in a remote area of the Utah desert) at the beginning of May, joining a phenomenal crew of scientists.

We will be in full simulation of life on Mars for two weeks which means wearing spacesuits when outside.

I'm currently focusing on how we are telling stories about the future. I'm also interested in the performance aspect of this Martian simulation—how this kind of storytelling can also be understood as a form of manifesting a future.

You can learn more about the Mars work on our crew website.

Photo by Kris Davidson of 'Earth on Mars' project. Photo courtesy of the artist's Instagram.

You also mention you’ll be exploring emerging robotics technology, AI, genetic engineering, human/machine merge, and “other hominid splits in history.” What sparked your interest in exploring these themes and what kind of artwork can we expect to see from this project?

In working to understand how we are telling stories about the future, I am also delving into rapidly unfolding technologies.

Emerging technologies such as AI, gene editing, and others will have an impact on our lives in ways that we may not fully grasp yet. We're on the brink of being able to use man-made tools to evolve our bodies—from actions such as eradicating genetic diseases to altering aesthetic attributes, like eye color.

Futurists call this post-humanism or transhumanism, and it is the beginning of another significant hominid split, but this time, by our own hand.

I am in the beginning stages of crafting artwork that explores how we are telling stories about these emerging technologies.


Your work focuses on storytelling across the past, present, and future. How do you navigate the blurred lines between fact and fiction in storytelling, and what role do you see your artwork playing in shaping our understanding of history and the future?

In this age, facts feel especially fragile, don’t they?

I feel like we are on the verge of assuming a much more nuanced view of how humans use storytelling—about the interplay of fact and fiction, and the slippery nature of truth. I believe that profound truths are often difficult to hold, and as such, we tend to shroud them in fantastical fiction.

Fiction can have an anesthetizing effect. The mythologizing of important stories can be understood as a sort of cocooning that allows our deepest existential questions and concerns to slide across time.

Kris Davidson, 'Celestino', 45 x 33.75 in, 2021

What does success as an artist mean to you? 

Success to me is presenting ideas in such a way that elicits thinking and conversation.

I also want to be contributing to the millennia-spanning conversation among artists across time and representing our time and place in history.


Why did you decide to use Artwork Archive and how do you use it on a daily basis?

Early on in my transition from editorial work to art-focused production, I met with a gallerist who gave me some excellent advice on best practices.

She strongly recommended Artwork Archive as a foundation for organizing artwork.

Since then, Artwork Archive has become a cornerstone part of my practice. It keeps me organized and on track, allowing me to put my best face forward for gallerists and anyone interested in my artwork. 

In addition, it helps me keep track of all my editions, who's purchased what, and I can also log the entire production process and what things have cost.

A peek inside Kris Davidson's studio. Photo courtesy of the artist. 

What advice would you give an emerging artist during this time?

I have found that using a planner that allows for macro and micro-tasking helps me make sure I accomplish both long and short-term goals.

Staying organized is a practice in itself, but it becomes easier with the right tools (like Artwork Archive). And once up and running, it's a beautiful accelerant for the creative process.


Kris Davidson uses Artwork Archive to inventory her artwork, track and manage her editions, and make sure her art career is running smoothly. 

You can make an online portfolio, catalog your artwork, and generate reports like inventory reports, tear sheets, and invoices in seconds with Artwork Archive. Take a look at Artwork Archive's free trial and start growing your art business. 

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