Remembering Artist and Curator Terrell Davis

On December 30th, 2020, the world suddenly and unexpectedly lost the bright light of Terrell Davis. Artists kytten janae and Joshua Keeney are organizing this Medical Expense Relief fundraiser on behalf of his family. All donations go directly to the Davis Family.

In June of 2013, I asked Terrell Davis to share some thoughts about the vaporwave music he was creating, “I met lots of people w/ VISAプリペイド and thats really what counted tbh. making friends and enjoying the experience.” Terrell’s unique ability to simultaneously make great art, friends, and have fun put him in a class of his own. He naturally excelled at all three, while most of us can barely be decent at one.

I first met Terrell Davis in May of 2013 after being a fan of his music. He was about 14 or 15 at the time I met him. Immediately Terrell reminded me of my own cousins who also grew up in the North East of the United States – so much so I insisted that he connect with one of my closest friends and fellow artist Luis, because he was also from New Jersey. Terrell agreed and had a great conversation with Luis, at least from Luis’ end; though I am convinced Terrell entertained the conversation because I asked, the last thing Terrell needed from any of us was advice LOL! He was at our first Felt Zine event in New York, as well as our last one prior to the pandemic. When he would post videos of his mom singing in the shower I felt like I was eavesdropping on one of my aunts via my cousin and that familial sense crept in even more. If you have ever been to a Felt Zine event, you know we bring our family out, even if they have no idea what they are experiencing, and Terrell had a similar style, but that was part of his magic, he made everyone feel like they were his big brother, sister, cousin, and all of that. He was true to himself, showing us all how to live in our own truth and value our own influences proudly.

I watched Terrell mature from a teenager in high school, to being accepted into, and then graduating from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC). To say he was just getting started is incorrect as he had already become one of the most influential creatives in the world before he earned his degree. However, the feeling that we were watching a star that was far from shining its brightest light cannot be shaken.

Terrell belongs to the rarest class of artists and creatives – the originators. He was a trendsetter who many of the most popular names in art and design owe their careers and creative output. From the aesthetics of Seapunk, to Vaporwave, to Y2K, Terrell was a monumental, influential force. In 2016 we were trading notes about the impact of Pen & Pixel, and 1990s rap graphics, which ended up inspiring his Black Lives Matter piece we included in several gallery and museum shows we curated. He showed he was ahead of his time and most of culture in his early use of BLM iconography, and celebrating the diversity of black and queer cultures in his immersive and video art. Terrell is a creative genius that belongs in the pantheon of timeless artists that truly mastered their own self-cultivation as an exemplary gift to us all.

Its been 10 years since the creation of Felt Zine in 2011, and around 8 years since we helped to usher in a new era of net art with experimental 3D rendering at its core. Terrell played a major part in that. And while I have been as guilty as others in letting those who do not understand our art belittle it with jokes or offhand remarks, I cannot turn the other cheek any longer. In the last calendar year, I have lost two friends who I consider creative geniuses including Terrell and Thomas McMahan. Both are people who dedicated their lives to this art form and contributed to the evolution and growth of our new net art culture. Today when one looks at the art of Instagram, or the styles that make up the “crypto art” of decentralized blockchain digital art marketplaces, the influence of artists like Terrell cannot be denied. In his name, and the others that have lost their lives after championing our culture, I refuse to let net art be considered as anything less than one of the great global artistic movements, and perhaps the one of the single most importance of the early 21st century. It is the least I can do for those who gave us so much.

In loving memory of Terrell Davis,

Mark Sabb
Founder of Felt Zine

Projects and collaborations with Felt Zine and Terrell Davis

Terrell Davis, “Black Lives Matter” as seen in Felt Zine Exhibitions including FELTB4E

Group show curated by Terrell Davis and Nicole Ruggiero including Mark Sabb of Felt Zine

The digital arts community has come together to honor and remember Terrell’s incredibly artistic legacy.  Please consider donating or sharing this Medical Expense Relief fundraiser to help with unexpected and mounting medical and funeral costs. All donations go directly to the Davis Family.