DeNeer Davis is a proudly born and raised North Carolinian from Charlotte. She paints murals, street art, and designs wearable, painted clothing products. She has already become a local sensation from her Instagram page where she, among other things, promotes her customized shoes which she particularly loves to paint. DeNeer reached out to North by Northwest after a Google search for graffiti events. “North by Northwest popped up and I called and they told me to come down. When I showed up I met some really cool artists including Tony Alderman and others,” DeNeer shared in our interview.
Spirit of Love and Charity
When I first caught up with DeNeer today on a phone call, she had just gotten home from helping the Beds for Kids charity furnish a home. Her energy was joyful and humbled as she told me about the project and the kid’s she was helping. It’s being able to create a real impact that makes a difference in someone’s life, and the feeling of gratitude, that shapes her work. “My work is constantly inspired by things exactly like that. The happiness the people received getting that new furniture. Their new baby is going to have a crib now. We gave them a new crib, a loveseat, beds, and that’s what I want to be able to do. I want to help turn a trauma into compassion,” DeNeer shared with me. She revealed that her own life had had its share of traumas. And she had learned to try to find the good where she could. “I don’t think you see too often people trying to work through the dark times through love and compassion for other people.”
“I like the Opportunity to be Myself”
One of the ways DeNeer loves to show people love is through murals, like the one she did in North by Northwest’s backlot. “The only hard part is when people want me to do a concept. I like the opportunity to be myself,” DeNeer explained. DeNeer is one of several local North Carolina artists that have contributed to North by Northwest’s back lot.
DeNeer loves the big spaces that a mural offers to express her ideas fully. But she doesn’t want to be pigeonholed as a street artist. “I like being referred to as an artist. Not a street artist, because what if I don’t want to be in a box?” DeNeer told me.
From Basketball Athlete to Artist
DeNeer said she’s been drawing sketches since she was in college. Though recently at her grandmother’s house she’s uncovered earlier drawings which reveals she’s always had the passion. She started seriously pursuing art after a basketball injury.
DeNeer had been preparing for a career in basketball to be an international professional athlete. After the injury she felt devastated and lost without knowing what direction her future would take. While she was recovering, a friend asked her to do a design for her kids’ names. The design included “peace, love and happiness.” This coincides with the brand of positivity and optimism DeNeer aims to transcribe through her work. “I always expected to just be playing basketball. So, I want young people to know they can do anything.” This is why she loves working with children.
Inspiring Future Young Artists
Today DeNeer’s work is full of color imbued with the feelings she wants to share with everyone. She is also a teacher but prefers freelance teaching rather than being stuck in a classroom. “Schools are trying to teach Pablo Picasso to Kindergarteners but that’s not what’s going to help them. What’s going to help them is letting them paint what’s in their mind.” In pre-covid times DeNeer was traveling to schools and speaking to get kids inspired.
An Artist Designing Shoes with Color
Some of the freelance classes that DeNeer teaches involve teaching adults or kids how to prepare a shoe to paint it and to layer it so that the paint doesn’t crack. “I love working with shoes because I pour my soul into the shoe. And I love it best when I can hand deliver it to the person because when they open the box and start hugging me or crying, it’s the greatest gift to me. It makes me cry. But I also love when I ship the boxes and I get notes and videos back. I love knowing that’s a pair of shoes that nobody else has. I can’t recreate the same pair of shoes twice. The brush strokes aren’t the same.
DeNeer said she hopes her messages in her art mix a bit of Gandhi, with a bit of Martin Luther King Jr., and Buddah. “I want it to say ‘Fight for what’s right. Peace and Justice and Love. Nothing is greater. DeNeer is certain the world is a better place because of art. “Art makes things peaceful. It gives the community color. And the Charlotte art scene is growing and definitely making an impact,” she told me.
What’s Next for DeNeer?
When I asked DeNeer what’s next for her, she told me her long term goal is to spray paint in all 50 states and internationally. A few years ago she got to fly out to London with other artists to paint at the Sadler Wells Theater and she wants to continue to take her art further. In the immediate future, DeNeer is working on developing her own brand of ‘mystery box’ shoes. She starts with a blank pair of Converse, asks her customer to specify in the comments if they don’t like a particular color or if they want less of a certain color. Other than that to leave the design to her and they’ll get a surprise, customized order.
DeNeer is also writing a book of mixed media, specifically to do with the correlation of poetry and art. And she has even found a way to combine her passion for basketball and art. DeNeer is hoping to get grants to start a program geared at the youth. The program would involve collaborating with basketball coaches and getting kids to draw their goals and inspirations on their basketballs by using graffiti letters, paint and unique techniques. She is also open to doing commissions for companies who want murals for their business. DeNeer said she would definitely be happy to work with North by Northwest again and hopes they have another event in their back lot soon.