Art and Faith: Davis d'Ambly

Tuesday, December 5th, 2023

Art & Faith: Davis d'Ambly, Liturgical Artist

Davis d’Ambly’s first experience in church was a memorable one Down Under.

“My mother was Australian and when I was a little boy, she took me home to spend time with the family. And they lived next door to the parish church,” d’Ambly recalls. “One Sunday, I happened to show up in the front pew of the parish church, all by my lonesome. A 3-year-old boy, toddled along and then I went and sat down. And there was, I am told, a lot of carrying on because this lonesome little child came in by himself.”

D’Ambly, a liturgical artist, has spent much of his life since that auspicious debut in various churches, for worship and work. He describes his vocation of more than 40 years in modest, slightly whimsical terms.
“Liturgical churches need things to produce the liturgy. They need stuff,” d’Ambly says. “So when people ask me what I do, I say I make stuff for churches. That’s what I do.”

The artwork he has created for churches in the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania, as well as Catholic churches and other sacred spaces from Charleston to San Francisco and from Texas to Toronto, spans a wide range of mediums, including paintings and altarpieces; woodcarvings, sculptures and furnishings; sacred vestments and altar hangings, and design and decorations.

For d’Ambly, art in churches combines with the music and the liturgy to create “a kind of dance ... It’s an expression of the beauty of God. And our beautiful offerings—can we make them beautiful enough? No, never. But we sure better try. That’s the whole point.”