Jennifer Davis Takes Us for a Ride with Her Carousel-Themed Show


Jennifer Davis is known for creating small-scale work, but for this show she decided to go big with 4×4-foot paintings. Photo by Jenna Westrick

The Super 8 film reel flickered to life and silent images of vintage carnival rides sprung into action on the screen. The imagery was both surreal and fascinating for Minneapolis painter Jennifer Davis, who couldn’t recall visiting carnivals like the ones she saw on film as a kid.

“I [became] obsessed with vintage carousels,” Davis said. “It was my love of those strange carousel menagerie animals and my lack of personal experience with them that made me want to visit them in person and start this big project.”

It’s a project that started with an eight-day trip along the east coast to visit vintage carousel museums, and ended with an impressive group of paintings set to show at one of Minneapolis’ hottest galleries, Public Functionary.

“It was so fascinating to see all of the various kinds of carousels. From the loud, colorful, rowdy boardwalk carnival atmospheres, to the almost art deco looking model at the end of a deserted street in a small town, to an 1883 ‘flying horses’ swing model on a beach,” Davis said. “The animals are often hand-carved, so they are as individual as those that made them. I found myself collecting favorite animals along the way for use as subjects in my paintings.”

“I found myself collecting favorite animals along the way for use as subjects in my paintings.”
Jennifer Davis

Once again, Public Functionary will undergo a dramatic change in order to usher in Davis’ show of paintings, “Joyride.” Gallery walls will be painted maroon, and a cohort of swings will be suspended in the center of the space below an installation of mirrors and hanging light bulbs. But while this kind of transformation isn’t unusual for the gallery, showing a local artist is. Jennifer Davis will be the first Minneapolis artist to exhibit in the year-old space, and her show will kick off the gallery’s 2014 exhibition schedule that’s set to include more local talent. Are you ready for the ride?

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Photo by Tricia Khutoretsky

Jennifer Davis: Joyride
March 22 — April 25, 2014
Public Functionary
1400 12th Ave. NE
Minneapolis, MN 55413


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“Most of the animals are very traditionally painted and restored, so I was excited to put them through a bright and bold prism in my work,” said Davis. Photo by Tricia Khutoretsky

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For eight days Davis sketched carousel animals, spoke with ride operators, ate ice cream and of course, took a few spins around the carousel in preparation to make this new body of work. Read more about the trip on her blog. Photo by Tricia Khutoretsky

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“You’d be surprised how many artists prefer to stay in a comfort zone,” said Public Functionary director/curator Tricia Khutoretsky. “But I think Jennifer has endless potential to explore where her work can go and what her limits are. The fact that she is still open to exploring, though her work is ‘successful’ as is, makes for an exciting exhibition.” Photo by Tricia Khutoretsky