Pann started life in the projects in the Boyle Heights area of Los Angeles.

At an early age she began drawing and coloring everything within her reach, but her mom, knowing only about the performing arts, proceeded to send her to piano, dancing, and acting lessons. In her late teens, she went to see a Vincent Van Gogh exhibit, stood in front of his paintings, said "I'm an artist!", and has never looked back. For the next few years she went to UCLA where she studied printmaking, then subsequently apprenticed herself to the printmaker Don LaViere Turner, and took additional printmaking classes at USC. Later, at Cal State L.A., she immersed herself in drawing and ceramics, eventually earning an Masters in Fine Art.

From the late sixties to the mid-nineties, Pann had more than 20 solo exhibitions in California and Japan, as well as having been in more than 50 group shows.

For over two decades, a portion of each year was spent traveling throughout Europe and Asia, living in Japan, France, and Hawaii for periods of four to fifteen months at a time.

Since the mid-nineties she has exhibited exclusively in her live/work studio in Venice, CA., where she is continuously at work painting in oil, building mural-sized constructions which are political commentaries, and creating vessels, functional items, & tiles out of stoneware clay. Her tiles have found their way into the mosaics decorating her home like a Gaudi or the Watts Towers, as well as numerous private commissions, all jointly executed with her husband, Gonzalo Duran.

Born in Mexico, raised in East L.A., the son of a shoemaker, Gonzalo Duran came to the U.S. at an early age.

He attended Otis Art Institute and Chouinard Art School. The world of Gonzalo is a fanciful place, peopled with characters, half-fable, half-fact. He has been called the Marc Chagall of the North and Central Americas. His brilliant, sometimes startling palette, complements his unbounded imagination.

Duran's career has been followed and his works have been acquired by many collectors throughout the U. S. and Mexico.

About Us

Cheri & Gonzalo by fountain on front porch                        © photo by Ken Hively

text  by Michael Webb                                                photo by Juergen Nogai

from     VENICE, CA      Art & Architecture  in a Maverick Community      published  by Abrams  2007

Our friends Cheri Pann and Gonzalo Duran have been creating the Mosaic Tile House in Venice California for over a decade. Both of them are accomplished painters and ceramic artists.  In their early 60’s, they’re still crazy about each other in a way that’s truly inspiring. Cheri and Gonzalo go salsa dancing on Wednesday nights with the shoes and the twirly flared-out skirts and the whole nine yards.  Cheri was married once before, or maybe twice, or, well, whatever – she got it right this time.  Gonzalo had eluded marriage altogether until one day when they were bike riding in the San Gabriel Valley, they passed some odd little church that announced it did marriages once a week.  They thought it was funny, and one thought led to another. 

I remember watching them on their bicycle built for two one Sunday, Cheri in the back in her black spandex and hot pink streamers coming out of the handlebars and Gonzalo with his mysterious smile and twinkling eyes, pedaling for both of them along a dry, L.A. riverbed. Just then we passed a dusty Mexican rodeo, plunked in the middle of modest suburban homes – a rodeo complete with bulls and wild horses and men in big hats practicing moves with their lariats underneath a faded Tecate banner.  Some might see Cheri and Gonzalo as unlikely a couple as bikers and cowboys, but somehow with these two, it works!

Theirs is the house where I go to mosaic a couple times a week when I’m in town.  It’s an amazing oasis of color and tongue-in-cheek kookiness, with the outdoor hot tub framed by Watts Towers-like structures of color, glints of mirror and cheeky porcelain kitsch swirling in a sea of turquoise through the sky with lacy bits of chayote vine trailing behind like a verdant comet.  They’ve built a huge space onto their house that accommodates both a ceramic studio and room for their large, wildly beautiful paintings.  As artists, they often reference each other’s work.  They riff off of themes and tangents until the creative energy vibrates with Cheri’s intense reds and Gonzalo’s saucy visual treatises.  This individual and collaborative artwork covers absolutely everything that’s not nailed down – and some of the things that are including the bathroom ceiling and the kitchen table. 

But the most inspiring of all to me is the relationship they have, the life they’ve built -- quirky and brave, colorful and funny and solid as a rock.  The Mosaic Tile House is the audacious geography of Cheri and Gonzalo’s partnership   It is a partnership and a place that somehow manage to balance life’s absurdities with its abundant potential for creative expression. It honors what appears in our path and on our doorsteps each and every day -- the things precious and mundane, quirky or profane.  I leave their mosaic kingdom each time reminded that life provides us that rich soup so often, and it’s our decision to pass it up or lick the bowl clean.  I’m more than grateful for the reminder.

Cinder Hypki

Cheri Pann & Gonzalo Duran

The Mosaic Tile House

1116 Palms Blvd

Venice, CA 90291

It was love at first sight. One day in 1992 Cheri Pann walked into NovaColor (a family owned paint manufacturing plant in Culver City) to buy paint.  She said “I need something permanent and bright that doesn’t fade” Gonzalo said “I’m your man!”  And to this day they are busily striving for something permanent and bright and non fading.

Gonzalo was born in Mexico, and came to the US as a child. The son of a shoemaker who specialized in flamenco and folklorico shoes for Spanish and Mexican dancers, he was raised in the Boyle Heights area of Los Angeles, and then studied art at Otis Art Institute as a teenager and after high school, at Chouinard Art Institute. He worked daily at NovaColor until he retired in 2013. Cheri was born in San Francisco but also grew up Boyle Heights. Her mother, a nurse cum saleswoman, ensured that Cheri was well schooled in theatre, dance, and music. In her teens, however, she realized that her true calling would be in the visual arts. She attended UCLA for a couple of years, concentrating in printmaking then continued at California State University, Los Angeles, where she concentrated on drawing and ceramics, ultimately earning her MFA. Today, both Cheri and Gonzalo work at both medium- and large-scale; she concentrates on portraits of Gonzalo and self-portraits, as well as her Tree of Life paintings, which are darker or more somber. In contrast, Gonzalo’s work is more whimsical, referencing a sort of magical realism.

They began working on modifying and expanding the house after Cheri purchased it in 1994. Transforming the small and nondescript Venice Beach 1940s bungalow into a single monumental and colorful work of art was not in the original plans; she purchased the small home because there was sufficient room in back to build a large studio that would accommodate her large-scale paintings. She then took a construction class at Santa Monica College and with students from the class, along with Gonzalo, they built the two studios.  Cheri was the General Contractor.  After that was completed, Cheri began to make some tiles for the bathroom, and it kept on from there – both the building and their attachment to each other. “It was a very ugly house,” Cheri remembers, “so we had to do something.” Gonzalo not only built the studio, but with his range of skills, built their cabinets, their bed, and much, much, more. They painted the walls, indoor and out, with “strong and happy” colors of NovaColor paint, ripped out a wall in the kitchen, rounded the corners of walls, and added built-in shelving, all of which they have completely covered in deep and saturated colored trencadís (the grout, too, that holds the tiles together, was colored with NovaColor paint.

Cheri makes most of her tiles, either glazing pre-formed 4”x4” tiles with abstract designs or creating them by rolling out the clay and embossing them with a variety of stamps. Gonzalo also makes some of the tiles and paints them with phrases or images that appeal. The tiles are then broken and laid out using an intuitive approach. They started with the whole tiles, but as soon as they broke them, “it all came to life,” Gonzalo said. They laugh as they note that Cheri makes the tiles while Gonzalo breaks them (at first she couldn’t bear to break her own work, but now she joins in).  He also creates the forms (the fortune cookie, the dolphins over the cutout bathtub, the iguana, elephant, giraffe-a-roo, the panda and all of the benches) on which he attaches  the tiles. While they estimate that it will need several more years to complete their vision, Gonzalo’s thought is that when they finish it, he would like to move and start all over again. Nevertheless, they would both like to turn the existing site into an historical landmark which remains in the public domain. 

Swirling color and humorous touches are everywhere, between pergolas and supporting buttresses trimmed with the handles of coffee cups, a door affixed with hundreds of pieces of flatware or tools, and bright passageways in which walls, ceilings and floors are all completely covered in broken tiles. An undulating front fence incorporates found natural or fabricated objects including garage sale finds of ceramic figurines and wrought iron finding or remanants. An outdoor hot tub is framed by an elaborate gazebo, inspired and constructed like Simon Rodia’s Watts Towers.  The house is constantly changing and evolving as they get new ideas and refresh or refurbish older components.

The front decorations are visible from the street.  Their home is open for tours on Saturdays from 1 - 4 pm without reservations. Admission is $15 for adults, $10 for children 7 – 12, and free for the youngest ones. Cheri and Gonzalo ask that for large tours, visitors contact them in advance. It is advised to check the website www.mosaictilehouse for holidays and closed dates.

Jo Farb Hernández     2018

A letter from Cinder Hypki

Cheri Pann (b. 1940) and Gonzalo Duran (b. 1943)