Cher Shaffer was born in Atlanta, Georgia on a small farm. She spent her youth surrounded by earth, sky and the whistling pines of the American South. Her mother, who was of Native American decent, accompanied Cher on many of her long walks and taught her about the woods and lands that they both cherished. Cher’s mother shared with her young daughter the beliefs and customs of her Native American heritage. Her father was German and a descendant of Martin Luther as well as a practicing Baptist. Through this parental combination Cher developed a deep respect and appreciation for nature and it’s Creator. She began painting shortly after the death of her gifted mother. As Cher explains this event opened a “Pandora’s box” of emotions and memories. Painting these memories seemed the best way to express and preserve her cherished childhood.
In 1978 with no formal training, Cher began transferring her memories to canvas. It was a significant factor in healing her grief over the loss of her mom. As in the case of happy childhoods our memories tend to be tinted with a hint of fantasy. Her early works are depictions of church gatherings, warm holidays, festive celebrations and the everyday chores of life on a rural farm. They are idyllic and flavored by the innocence of youth. Cher’s work developed and began a departure from these traditional folk art scenes into true fantasy interpretations. Electric color with smooth graceful lines evolved.
In 1985 Cher’s life again took a tragic turn. Due to extreme exhaustion Cher’s heart failed. She emerged from this terrifying event with a greater sense of responsibility for what she would leave behind. Her work began to explore the question of death. Ghostly images began to haunt her style. She describes her work from this period as coming from a “primal level”. In addition to painting, Cher also works in wood, stone, mixed media and designs three-dimensional creations such as dolls and masks.
As Cher explains she is a “double- minded” artist. One side of her art is carefree happy idealist and the other is a little on the wild side. You never know what will come out. While being interviewed by Millard Lampell, co-founder of the movement to recognize Appalachian Art, concerning her art training or lack of it she replied, “When people ask me if I am a trained artist, I have to laugh, I’m not a trained artist, I’m barely civilized.”
Cher’s career as an artist is highlighted with many accomplishments. Her work has been shown nationally and internationally in many one-woman shows including the 1992 Owensboro Museum of Art and 1993 a retrospective exhibition at Colorado State University.
She is represented in several public and private collections including that of Whoopie Goldberg, Jane Fonda, Richard Dreyfus, Rob Reiner, Henry Winkler and one of her most appreciated, fellow artist, Thornton Dial. In 1989 Shaffer’s work appeared in the traveling exhibition O, Appalachia: Artists of the Southern Mountains and in the publication by the same name. Also in 1989 she appeared on the “Today Show” on NBC. Her work has been featured in several publications including Art Voices South and Country Homes.