Jennifer Davis’ “Spree” at First Amendment Arts

Artist Jennifer Davis lets audiences into her whimsical world of anthropomorphized animals and pastel plants.

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Davis’ “upside down” exhibits her contrasting themes of curiosity and caution. PHOTO COURTESY JENNIFER DAVIS

John Sand

âÄúSpreeâÄù WHERE: First Amendment Gallery, 1101 Stinson Blvd. WHEN: March 27 TICKETS: Free Enter the world of artist Jennifer Davis , a darkly whimsical land wrought with two-headed brothers playing pastel pianos and sad-looking hot air balloon manatees. Davis is displaying her world this weekend at Stinson BoulevardâÄôs First Amendment Gallery. Davis, a visual arts graduate from the University of Minnesota, has grown both in painting size and prominence since her first solo show in 2002 .at Gallery 360. Her life has become a whirlwind of exhibition planning and travel as sheâÄôs been able to hold her own without a dreaded day job. A solo show featuring Davis just closed in Ontario and BostonâÄôs Walker Contemporary i s also showing her work. âÄúI try to keep a lot of irons in the fire,âÄù she said. Davis explained that her illustrations contain âÄúchildhood story-book imagery âĦ but they deal with more adult, darker themes.âÄù Even though the surfaces of her paintings appear calm, the facial expressions of her blushing cat-people and wandering deer are often distressed or frantic. The work exists in the Tim Burton paradigm, where glossy stylization and bright colors mask heavier, darker themes of damaging relationships and communication problems. âÄúIâÄôve invented my own language of symbols that I use over and over again,âÄù said Davis, and these symbols are well hidden among the flowers and grazing kittens. Her illustrations donâÄôt spout from any concrete, formulaic process. Instead, Davis works organically through an intuitive method of playing with characters and imagery to work out anxiety and emotion. With anthropomorphized cats reaching for pale-colored flowers and a lonely seal with a tree sprouting from his head, Dr. Seuss and Lewis Carroll would have a heyday with DavisâÄô work.