Dream world

There’s no mistaking the unique art of Jennifer Davis

FULTON – She is not: the Jennifer Davis who played a nurse in nine episodes of "M*A*S*H;" DJ Jennifer Davis of Caracas, Venezuela; professional ballroom dancer Jennifer Davis; or Jennifer Davis, Ph.D., University of Cambridge lecturer.

She is not even the Minneapolis yoga instructor of the same name, who also happens to be an artist. (But it’s funny what a Google search will turn up, isn’t it?)

Really, though, there is no mistaking the Jennifer Davis showing this month and next at Gallery 360.

Her paintings depict a world of concrete skies and prairie-flat horizons, lithe young women wearing animal heads and wispy trees speckled with pink leaves. They’re all postcards from the same pastel-tinted dreamland.

The paintings in "Out on a Limb …" – which often incorporate elements of drawing and collage – typically start with Davis flipping through her massive vintage magazine collection.

"I have piles and piles of things I’ve torn out," she said.

The images she loves – a koala’s head, a pair of legs, a bicycle – are recycled, appearing repeatedly in her work.

"If I find a picture of a little girl I like, or something, I’ll use it over and over again," she said.

She had been working in this way for a while before a friend told her about Henry Darger, the outsider artist who was the subject of a 2004 documentary, "In the Realms of the Unreal." Darger obsessively reused certain images pulled from newspapers to produce his bizarre 15,000-page illustrated novel.

But Darger was a recluse. Davis can’t afford to stay cooped-up in her home’s studio all day.

After graduating from the University of Minnesota with a bachelor of fine arts degree in 1998, Davis worked full-time at several advertising agencies, first as an office manager and later in accounting. Workaday life, she said, "was my worst nightmare.

"It was a real drain," Davis said. "I’ll do anything to not go back to working."

Since being laid off in October 2003, she has done just that. "I show all the time, probably too much," she confessed, "because I’m just trying to stay afloat, make a living off my art."

Persistence has paid off.

This is Davis’ third show at Gallery 360 in five years. This summer, she’ll show in New York and North Carolina, and a show in Seattle just wrapped up.

Good timing earned Davis her first show at Gallery 360. It was June 2001, and Davis, on a whim, mailed the gallery a CD with images of her artwork.

Gallery owner Merry Beck said she wouldn’t always look at an unsolicited portfolio, but she’d just had an artist drop out of a group show. Beck needed a replacement, fast.

It was, Davis said, "a really lucky break."

Recalling the story, Beck considers herself the lucky one. "We hit the jackpot," she said.

"Out on a Limb …" runs through July 22 at Gallery 360, 3011 W. 50th St. 925-2400. www.jenniferdavisart.com