49ers Blog and Q&A

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May 14, 2010
Vernon Davis wears his art on his sleeve

There are two sides to Vernon Davis. A doctor once noticed that when he told Davis he holds a lot of anger on the left side of his face. Davis didn't know what to make of that observation - and didn't quite believe it - until he looked at a self portrait he calls "Mirror Image." It's Davis' favorite creation and hangs in his home. "In this painting, the left side of my face was dark," Davis said, "and the right side was light."

Those dueling personalities were on display Thursday. At one point in the evening, the 49ers tight end was Tweeting frenemy Darnell Dockett of the Arizona Cardinals, the latest volley in a war of words sure to last until the teams meet on Nov 29. A little later, Davis was part of a panel discussion at San Francisco's de Young museum. The session, part of a series called Art Impact, centered on the importance of art in school system, how it's ingrained in people and not an elective, and how it can rescue otherwise troubled and lost students.


Unfortunately, said another panelist, Susan Stauter, the artistic director for the San Francisco Unified School District, art programs are treated as the dessert of school programs. That is, they're the first thing that gets cut when budgets shrink. She noted that athletic programs often suffer the same fate.

Davis said he was an example of the power of art. Raised by his grandmother in Washington, D.C., Davis told the audience that he started to go astray in the sixth grade. His grandmother dealt him some tough love, and by the time eighth grade rolled around, Davis was on a better path. He joined the dance team, signed up for the drama club and made the National Honor Society.

But he said he didn't fully embrace his artistic side until he was a sophomore at the University of Maryland. He began college thinking he would major in criminal justice. He said he had drifted from the art classes he started in eighth grade because it just wasn't cool. All the boys in his high school wanted to be Michael Jordan, a member of the Washington Wizards at the time. No one wanted to be Michaelangelo, Davis' favorite artist.

And that's why Davis is such a boon for the art community in San Francisco. The best tight end in the NFL and a guy who doesn't back down from any fight - just ask his training-camp opponents - also loves to put his emotions on canvas. And that's pretty cool.

-- Matt Barrows


Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.


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