JOE DAVIS: Genestheticist
Image: KATHLEEN DOOHER
CAMBRIDGE, MASS.--Either Joe Davis is late or I am lost. I check my watch and look for the third time at the address he gave me for the studio where he creates his avant-garde art: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, building 68, sixth floor, room 604D. Here it is, locked and looking nothing like an artist's workshop. "SEVERE EYE DAMAGE" cautions a sign on the door, referring to a laser (not the artworks) inside. There are trash bins marked "WARNING: RADIOACTIVE WASTE," walk-in refrigerated vaults containing cells in stasis, ultracentrifuges the size of washing machines. But no paints, no cameras, no sculpting tools.
I wander downstairs to the office of Alexander Rich, the biophysicist who famously discovered left-handed DNA (the normal stuff twists to the right), who worked out the structure of transfer RNA, who last year won the $250,000 Bower award, and who invited Davis into his lab in 1992 as a "research affiliate," which grants Davis a space to work and access to the lab's expensive tools but no financial support. There is still no sign of Davis, until I press my nose against the window of a door into a small white room.
This article was originally published with the title Art as a Form of Life.