Painter Cherie Benner Davis’ signature Super-Natural style is inspired by the flamboyance of botanical life in Southern California, and equally seeks to transform the potential of this optical bounty through a broader dialogue with art history and society. Her latest works — lavishly detailed, vibrating fractals of fantastical color and motifs of cannabis plants — are a blending of the languages of psychedelia, magic realism, folklore and pagan plant wisdom, religious designs like mandalas and stained glass, and hard-edge or Op-Art abstract painting. By exuberantly playing with the lines between subculture and sacred mathematics, pattern and pure color theory, Davis does indeed take it higher. Her latest works are on view at Edward Cella gallery in the Pacific Design Center through March 25.
L.A. WEEKLY: When did you first know you were an artist?
CHERIE BENNER DAVIS: When I was five years old our family lived for a year in Nice, France while my father was there on a teaching sabbatical. Not speaking the language, I attended all-day school along with native children who’d already been in school for a year. Apparently the teachers allowed me to spend many hours of my time at school on my own, drawing, painting and singing to myself while the other children were engaged in their second-year school work. After our family returned to the U.S. and I was sent to first grade, my frustrated teachers sent me back to kindergarten for a period of time in hopes that I would “learn how to listen.” To this day I am still very internal and I have been making art ever since.
What is your short answer to people who ask what your work is about?
Currently I am making paintings that playfully riff on the botanical forms and cultural associations of Cannabis, desert landscape, psychedelia, and hard-edge painting. In these works I examine the significant shifting social acceptance and broader legalized use of the Cannabis herb by setting out to create fantastical and optically active compositions. I draw from a diverse range of visual sources, including 60’s-era psychedelic art, the rose windows of Medieval cathedrals, and the fractal patterns of chaos theory. Oscillating between hard-edged abstraction, magical realism, and pure sensation; the paintings posit the role of the artist in visualizing the shared social phenomenon as political and cultural boundaries rapidly change.
Did you go to art school? Why/Why not?
I have an MFA in drawing and painting from CSULB. I found the community experience of grad school to be incredibly worthwhile in my development as an artist, and gaining the advanced degree also served my plan to earn a Master’s degree so that I could both teach college and have time to make my work.
Why do you live and work in L.A., and not elsewhere?
I LOVE L.A. I have lived elsewhere — twice in France, and twice out of state, and have traveled internationally, but L.A. is my home. I love the space, the openness, and the possibility of this place.
When is/was your current/most recent/next show or project?
Currently installed is a solo exhibition of my work called Trichromic, presented by Edward Cella Art & Architecture, at Thomas Lavin Showroom in the Pacific Design Center, West Hollywood. The show runs through March 25. In the summer I will have work featured in a group show at Carl Solway Gallery in Cincinnati, and I will have a solo show with Carl Solway Gallery in Fall 2022.
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