Although shrines are thought of as constructed sites filled with precious materials such as valuable metals, stone and luxurious fabrics, Portable Shrine in Homage to the Middle Passage, (1968 – present day) by Willis Bing Davis allows the viewer to approach a temporarily constructed shrine with seemingly discarded objects. Portable Shrine reflects a family—represented by shoes—coming to acknowledge their African heritage, remembering and giving thanks to the ancestors on whose shoulders they stand.

Willis “Bing” Davis was born in Greer, South Carolina and grew up in Dayton, OH. He received degrees in art education from DePauw University and Miami University. Throughout his illustrious record as an artist, educator, curator and arts advocate, he has lived, and worked in Indiana and Ohio. Having taught at all age levels, education has been the touchstone of his career including faculty positions at Wright State University, Miami University and as chair of the art department at Central State University in Wilberforce, OH.

As a prolific artist, Davis has worked in all media. He especially enjoys using found objects to create artwork influenced by images and objects his African ancestors might have made in the service of ceremonies and rituals. With over sixty solo exhibitions since 1959, his work has been exhibited internationally. As part of his commitment to strengthen community through arts education, Davis has helped to create an impressive number of cultural organizations. Notable examples include the Shango Center for the Study of African American Art and Culture and the EbonNia Art Gallery in the developing Wright/Dunbar neighborhood of Dayton’s West Side. He is currently a member of the Board of Directors of the National Conference of Artists—the oldest and largest organization of African American visual artists. He considers himself to be anchored in urban Appalachia and at the same time connected to what he refers to as the “global family.”