by TM Davy, 2014/2015


The PORTRAITS project commissioned artist TM Davy to paint portraits of two prominent theologians, both faculty at Union Theological Seminary who have since retired. In each case, the artist was encouraged to spend a significant amount of time with the theologian and to paint entirely from life, not from photographs. The idea was to create a more intimate and durational connection between an artist and a theologian, a connection that never happens in a world where Christianity and art are at odds.

The project grew out of the residency of Cathy Busby, in which she researched the collection of official portraits at Union Theological Seminary, dating back 150 years, and produced both an exhibition and the book About Face. In the final analysis, it became clear that the portraits, all commissioned by the Board of Trustees, honoured primarily white men who were donors of significant funds to the institution. There is the occasional portrait of a seminary President, but no portraits of the many important theologians who have taught at Union over the decades, for example Reinhold Niebuhr or Paul Tillich, or currently James Cone, Brigitte Kahl, or Cornel West. There are few portraits of women or people of colour.

We commissioned portraits of Christopher Morse and of Anne Ulanov.



TM Davy was born in 1980 in New York, NY and currently lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. He was educated at The School of Visual Arts (BFA, 2002) where he currently also teaches. Davy is represented by 11R in New York and Exile in Berlin. Recent solo exhibitions include Candela at 11R (2014), and at Exile, Berlin (2012). Recent group exhibitions include LOVE 2016, Curated by Rachel Stern at LeRoy Neiman Gallery, Columbia University, The Botanica at Invisible Exports, NY (2014), AA Bronson’s House of Shame in The 10th Gwangju Biennale (2014), and No Soul for Sale, curated by Maurizio Cattelan and Cecilia Alemani, at Tate Modern, UK (2010). Sarah Michelson included commissioned portraits by TM Davy in her performances (2011-2015). Reviews and articles include The New York Times, Time Out New York, Out Magazine, and Village Voice, among others.