Editor's note: During the off-season, the Star is looking at some of the artists who call the Old Pueblo home. Today: sculptor Ed Davenport.
Ed Davenport is a man who can get excited about a pile of rocks.
They may look drab and gray to most people, but his sculptor's eye is practiced at seeing beyond the obvious.
"That one jumps out at me," he says of a holiday-ham-sized chunk of stone that at first seems perfectly ordinary.
Davenport grabs a plastic spray bottle and spritzes intently, running his fingers over moss-green veins revealed by wetting the specimen.
"This swirly pattern tells me it's marble," he enthuses.
"Sometimes you get in there and it's like a jewel."
Assessing a stone's potential is part of a creative process for Davenport, who often sculpts in stone he gathers from wild lands around Arizona.
There's black marble with coppery streaks from Avra Valley, pale-gray granite from Mount Lemmon, or speckled marble from the Gardner Canyon area.
Every so often, he also buys stone from out of state. And he works occasionally in bronze.
Davenport has been sculpting for more than two decades.
For him, it's not just about the end result.
He enjoys every aspect of the process: the hum of the air compressor that powers his cutting tools, the cold smoothness beneath his hand once a piece gets its final polishing.
"I love to shape the stone. It's very gratifying," he said in an interview at his studio inside a Quonset hut in Barrio Anita.
"And when I realized I could make some money doing it, it was doubly cool."
A native of Oklahoma and the son of an Air Force colonel, Davenport, 68, has been kicking around Tucson since the 1970s.
After three years in the Army and stints at several colleges studying engineering, biology and philosophy, he hitchhiked here on his way home from a trip to Mexico and never left.
Besides being an artist, Davenport is a local musician and also worked for years as a massage therapist.
He started playing stand-up bass soon after arriving in Tucson and appeared in several area bands over the years. He now has a regular gig with the Titan Valley Warheads, a local country and bluegrass act.
As a sculptor, Davenport draws much of his inspiration from nature and mythology. One piece, "The Seed" made of speckled brown Arizona granite, is a stylized version of a teardrop-shaped seedpod he found on a Mexican beach.
Another, "Ouroboros," which he has done in marble and bronze, depicts a snake swallowing its tail in a circular shape - a spiritual symbol for infinity with roots in several ancient cultures.
But there is also whimsy in his work.
"Beyonce," an ample female torso carved in black Italian marble streaked with pink, is named for the voluptuous pop singer.
"Mimsy Borogove," a swirly plume cut from white Colorado marble, was inspired by the birdlike creature in "Jabberwocky," the famed nonsense poem by 19th-century writer Lewis Carroll.
Davenport's complete collection can be seen online at ouroborosgallery.com
His work has won a number of awards, including first prize at the California Sculptors Symposium in 2006. It has appeared in several local galleries and is part of numerous private collections.
On Saturday, when a new show opens at Solar Culture Gallery in the warehouse district downtown, Davenport will be one of dozens of local artists on display.
Gallery owner Steven Eye promises a show full of "Tucson treasures."
The event also includes works by an array of local artists, including painters Salvador Duran, Anya Slonim, Mary Theresa Dietz, Gavin Troy and others.
Contact reporter Carol Ann Alaimo at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 573-4138.
Sculptor Ed Davenport
• Where you'll find his work: He has pieces in a new show, "Alignment," opening at Solar Culture Gallery, 31 E. Toole Ave., with a reception from 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday.
• What it costs: His sculptures range from $750 to $4,000.
• Meet him: At his studio, by appointment, 622-3699.