Necessity Has the Face of a Dog

by Madeline Saxton-Beer

We pay L.A. artist Deedee Cheriel a visit as she prepares for her upcoming exhibition at the Merry Karnowsky Gallery
As I walk into Deedee Cheriel's Glendale studio, she proceeds to tell me about how it was constructed from aluminum panels taken from an old FBI computer storage facility. Littering the interior are her latest series of prismatic works that have become the talk of the town in recent years. The pieces, with their abundance of imaginary folk creatures--who meld the real with the fantastical--exhibit a psychedelic dose of anthropomorphism in their interaction with each other, coupled with a shrewd sense of cultural critique honed from her time living abroad in post-dictatorial Chile.

"We would go out and spray paint stencil stuff all over Santiago." She recounts of her time spent as an exchange student when she was 16, "My friend Evo had this stencil he made for all the people that had died. We would spray images, these half-animal/angel people everywhere."

The people she met and the atmosphere of the time had an indelible effect on the budding artist; when asked about her favorite authors and their influence over her work, Cheriel cites Gabriel García Márquez's brand of magical realism, admitting "I really love all the metaphors, it just really resonated with me. And then, when I was living there, I sort of saw the world through the veil of the way it was written."

With mysticism maintaining a stronghold on Cheriel's work, she still has to weigh up what has influenced her the most. With her Indian heritage regularly reeling her back to her paternal homeland--we digress into the story of how her father was miraculously rescued by an American traveler who encountered him on the verge of starvation and brought him to the U.S.--she is quick to speak of the collective spirituality in India; "You go to take a yoga class and you ask 'how much is it?' and they're like '[nothing], it's for the common good.' And you're like 'what?!'. Everything in [American] culture is about money, it's not about helping another person." One of her pieces, "After We Work Together and the Work is Done," illustrates a landscape of otherworldly characters going about their hunting and gathering while a central body of water broaches California’s pressing water shortage--arguably a reference to the population’s approach to environmental issues as Cheriel again highlights the importance of nature.

As the artist gets set to install her pieces in the gallery's principal space, Cheriel admits that being able to exhibit larger paintings has lead to greater detail in the grand scheme of things; "[Doing this exhibition] really gave me the opportunity to be big so you can tell more of a story and have bigger pieces with a little more detail to them."

A collection of several years of the artist's work will be on view starting Saturday, August 1st at the Merry Karnowsky Gallery, 170 S. La Brea Avenue.