In 1994, Venice, California was a different place than it is today. It had a bohemian vibe and it wasn’t necessarily considered upscale, but a place where artists, artisans and all kinds of creatives found their home. Much later, when the tech companies started popping up the city, the population changed, but the town of Venice still preserved much of its charm. Many of the local art projects are preserved and some of them even have a celebrity status, such as the one and unique Mosaic Art Tile House of Cheri Pann and Gonzalo Duran.
After having purchased a rather plain little house in 1994, a natural-born artist Cheri Pann wanted to endow it with a new life in color. Ever since she was a little child, she was dedicated to coloring, drawing and creating visual works, and color has always been the most important expressive means of her artistic self. After a Van Gogh show opened her eyes even further, she was set on being an artist. Her path took her to UCLA where she studied printmaking, but also drawing and ceramics at Cal State LA later, earning an MA in Fine Arts. Throughout her artistic career, she exhibited in California and Japan in over 20 solo and over 50 group exhibitions. An avid traveler, she spent months of her adventurous life abroad, in Europe and Asia, but since the mid-nineties, she has only exhibited in her studio in Venice. As a multimedia artist, Cheri Pann is very crafty as she paints in oil, but also creates ceramic vessels, mural installations and most importantly – clay tiles for her life’s work – the house.
It wasn’t until Cheri Pann got the house and met Gonzalo Duran, her husband, that the idea of a mosaic art house was born. A Mexican-born Los Angeles dweller, Gonzalo, also had an artistic background as a former student of Otis Art Institute and Chouinard Art School. His style was always akin to magic realism and somewhat reminiscent of Chagall, while he shares the love of a bright palette with his wife.
It was destiny that brought Ms. Pann to the paint store where Gonzalo worked in the early nineties, starting one of the great romances of Venice and a beautiful story of a monumental and vibrant artwork the couple has been building for over 20 years.
Soon after they met, they bonded and embarked on a weekend project that would turn into a lifetime adventure. Originally, the 6,000 square foot lot around the house was meant to be the space for Cheri’s studio, because it was large enough to store her paintings. The two creative minds instantly joined in their visions and continued to develop the colorful dream, covering it with the brightest nuances they could find.
A Tribute to Life and Art
The Mosaic Art Tile House today is an ode to art, life, and romance, celebrating the important moments and ideas the couple has lived together. The entire structure, both the interior and the exterior are covered in colorful tiles including the cabinets, shelves, and unexpected household elements, while the small portions that are omitted are painted in contrasting hues and contain large-scale paintings.
The most of the tiles are irregular in shape and come in fiery red, yellow and orange colors, balanced out with maritime nuances of blue, turquoise and green. Sheen and mirror particles break the rows of hues, adding to the vibrancy of every surface.
Through the working process that involves Cheri making the tiles and Gonzalo breaking and installing them, the result is a spectacular and an utterly unique living space that crosses the boundaries of what a contemporary home might be. Their mosaics are abstract, but associative, pouring out of any sort of imaginable frame directly into the living space. They are not just a part of it, they form it, they are the organic part of the home. The result is an overwhelming mosaic art craze, that can appear as a bit too much for an ordinary spectator. But once you dive into this odd space, the logic of the colors, space, and tiles does seem to pop up.
Immersed in this magical environment, a visitor can discover small humorous vignettes around the corners and columns, hidden narratives in unexpected places, and unusual shapes playing roles of supporting buttresses or structures. Everything is twisted in this space, swirling around and moving about the visual field, incorporating the imaginative yard into the artistic plan of the house, with the undulating fence, the ornate gazebo and the strange, yet inviting hot tub.
A Handmade Wonderland
What makes the mosaics of the Venice Tile House even more special are the handmade tiles, all created, embossed and glazed by Cheri. Gonzalo’s contribution on tiles comes in the form of paint or wording and leading the cracking process. He also decides to create specific, recognizable forms of tiles from time to time, resembling animals, or household items. The grandeur of the project is reflected in the fact that they have not yet completed it and will need several more years to bring their vision to an end. However, both are aware of the uniqueness and appeal of their home, and this is why they have opened it to the public, guiding tours and welcoming visitors all year round.
Visible from the street, the Mosaic Art Tile House in Venice is a real show-stopper. With some of the decorations being visible from the public area, it allures and invites the visitors to come in and explore the mosaic art universe resemblant of the Alice’s Wonderland. Every Saturday from 1 to 4 pm, Cheri opens her doors to the interested crowd, guiding them through this amazing home and instilling their love of mosaic and art into everyone who gets inspired.
Finally, it’s important to say that the Venice Mosaic Art House is more than a craft project. It’s a testimony to the uncompromising dedication to art, and a showcase of how mosaic art can penetrate even the most unexpected areas of life. It’s a lifelong homage to the romance of two imaginative artists that share a passion for color and gaudiesque adornment. They were bold enough to create their private Park Güell, allowing the creativity to naturally flow through every aspect of their lives. For this, every art and mosaic lover should thank and applaud the pair. And so do we.