Meet Brock Davis, Our New Favorite Artist

How one artist got noticed by Bansky for Instagrams of whiffle balls and Doritos.

Brock Davis is an artist for the digital age.

While the art world turns up its nose at social media, Davis proudly works in the nexus of creativity and virality. Snaps of his childlike, arch reimaginings of familar objects — cotton swabs into thunderclouds, onion rings into raindrops, and Doritos into shark fins — have racked up a loyal Instagram following of 172,000. Amid the mind-numbing selfies and shots of quinoa-bowl lunches, Davis’ photos inspire users to look at the world with a child’s imagination. Or a stoner’s.

He’s even caught the attention of elusive street artist Banksy, who has described his work as “a freewheeling sideways visual energy that’s impossible not to love.” Banksy recently invited Davis to take part in his much-discussed Dismaland exhibit, which turned a derelict lido into a post-apocalyptic Disney-themed art installation. While much of Dismaland was overt in its takedown of consumerism and media tinsel, Davis’ work stood out for its subtlety. A photo of a watermelon covered in flies was as twisted as it got.

Maxim recently chatted with Davis about his love of Instagram, why the mundane fires his imagination, and what it was like to dabble in the dark side with Banksy.

What is the appeal of working with everyday objects?

The fact that they are everyday objects is the appeal. Everyday, ordinary objects can have power to them because they are familiar. Everyone knows what a cotton swab is. But if you take it and look at it again with a different perspective, then it suddenly changes the way that people perceive it.

Is it fair to say you have a childlike approach?

Oh yeah. I’ve never approached artwork in a very serious way. When a child gets a gift, there’s that cliché that they play with the wrapping paper just as much as they will with what’s inside the wrapping paper. The toy or the wrapping paper — both of those things are new, and the brain is processing what they are, so there’s an interest there. As we get older, our thought process becomes more rational, and everyday objects become white noise. That actually creates the opportunity to make them interesting to people again.

A photo posted by Brock Davis (@brockdavis) on

Nov 24, 2013 at 9:00am PST

Why the particular fascination with sharks?

A shark fin breaking the surface of water is a very iconic image. You can show that image to everyone on Earth, and they will probably know what it is. So, there’s a real power to that very simple image of just a triangular shape breaking that plane. And there are a lot of moments in life where you can see that occurring.


Aug 8, 2013 at 7:41pm PDT

Many artists find Instagram restrictive. Why have you embraced it?

I embrace limitations. Great work comes from people telling you no and saying “that’s impossible.” With Instagram, there’s that square format. And with Vine, it’s six seconds to make something impactful to people. How can you take that space and put something creative in it that will resonate with people? I love challenges like that.

But does this culture of selfies and cat photos ever bog down the medium?

There’s nothing wrong with people taking photographs of what they had for lunch or their cat. I guess it just makes for a lot of clutter and information out there. For a creative person, if I want people to notice my work, I have to think about work that will somehow break through all of the noise out there. It’s pretty much where people are, and it’s a platform to get work out in front of people and inspire them.

A photo posted by Brock Davis (@brockdavis) on

Apr 13, 2013 at 9:00am PDT

How was it getting the invite from Banksy to be part of Dismaland? How did he find you?

That was a question I never asked him. My first reaction was I thought it was a joke. I just figured someone was either playing a joke on me or I was receiving junk email. But when I realized that it was real, it was a very strange feeling. I was like, “Wow! Somewhere along the way he’s seen my work.”

Banksy definitely picked up on the darker undertones of your work. 

I guess the darkest that I get is that I do like to work with insects quite a bit — insects, dead flies, and stuff like that. You find a dead animal, and there are always ideas that pop up. There have been times that I’ve seen a dead squirrel on the road, and yeah… I see the squirrel, and I want to put a tiny backpack on him. So, it seems like he was on his way somewhere, and he got hit by a car, and his tiny iPhone was destroyed, and his tiny backpack fell over. I think my work at Dismaland is quieter and little happier, with a little tinge of darkness in some pieces.

What piece of yours most caught people’s attention at Dismaland?

One of my photos from Dismaland is a woman’s foot smashing into an ice cream cone. Most people view that as, “Oh yeah, an ice cream cone looks like a high heel.” But I also had people contact me and say they were actually seeing more racial tension in the image. That was not the underlying intention, but I think that’s interesting. I was more interested in the contrast of the images in terms of how it popped on the page. But some things are going to be interpreted very overtly, and some things are going to speak to people in different ways.

A photo posted by Brock Davis (@brockdavis) on

Aug 20, 2015 at 7:00am PDT

Finally, did you get to meet Banksy?

I wish that I had. I only got to meet his crew, but I can say that his email correspondence was really cool. He also sent me a very nice thank you note at the end of Dismaland just being very complimentary of my participation and that he was looking forward to working together in the future…

Photos by Brock Davis