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Cleveland artist Dexter Davis channels road rage shooting into new art

The 2022 FRONT International Triennial is underway in Northeast Ohio this summer spotlighting more than 100 contemporary artists from around the world, including local creators.

One of FRONT's featured artists from Cleveland is Dexter Davis.

Cleveland artist and Cleveland Institute of Art alumnus Dexter Davis [Jean-Marie Papoi / Ideastream Public Media]

Davis' exhibition for FRONT, "The Less Dead," features new work created in the two years since he was shot in the back during a road rage attack in July 2020.

"Art was a vehicle, something that I can use to be able to express myself," Davis said. "[Art's] something that I could go to, to try to find a way out of whatever the situation was at the time."

This takes shape in the show, for instance, with a piece called "Tree of Life," which features photographs of the bullet wound and an x-ray of the bullet lodged in his back.

Dexter Davis exhibit "The Less Dead" on view at the Cleveland Institute of Art for the 2022 FRONT International Triennial [Dolan/Maxwell]

Art and healing are themes of this year's triennial, according to Fred Bidwell, the executive director of FRONT.

"We struggle as a nation, as a world, as a community, and we need answers. We need ways to heal and to come together. And and I think art can be a very important way to recover," Bidwell said.

Davis is an inspiration to Bidwell.

"Art pervades his life. Creativity pervades his life. And I think that's made him successful as a person against odds that I think would have crushed many other people," Bidwell said.

Dexter Davis' exhibition, "The Less Dead," is on view in the Reinberger Gallery at the Cleveland Institute of Art for the 2022 FRONT Triennial.

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Dave DeOreo is coordinating producer for Ideastream Public Media’s arts and culture team.