David Varnau - Varnau Studio - Studio #11
Figurative bronze sculpture table top to life size. Sculptures that inspire you to pause and savor life.
725 Driftwood Lane, Edmonds 98020 Phone: 206-947-2656 Web: www.davidvarnau.com Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
725 Driftwood Lane, Edmonds 98020 Phone: 206-947-2656 Web: www.davidvarnau.com Email: email@example.com
Interview by Lynette Hensley
Sculptor David Varnau finds joy in capturing fleeting emotion on a face or the sweep of a dance. He is clearly driven to communicate the subtleties and extremes of human emotions and expressions, transforming them into weighty and permanent objects, and inspired by the essence of the human being, both physically and psychologically.
LH: In what ways do the places where you have lived affect the art you create, or your artistic preferences? Where have you lived throughout your life? How has that shaped your art?
DV: Born and raised in rural Indiana, I grew up appreciating the lyrical in nature all around me. A wide-eyed, nature child, I developed an eye for the subtle and sometimes striking beauty of everyday moments and encounters in my natural environment. While pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology at Loyola University of Chicago, I found myself fascinated with watching people of all ages and races in a large urban center and was intrigued by the language of the body as it expressed the range of human emotions. My decision to spend a year abroad in Rome during my junior year stimulated a lifelong love of classical sculpture. Then, upon completion of my degree, my work in psychology as a rehab counselor provided me with valuable insights into the vulnerable side of human nature.
While receiving post-baccalaureate training in the field of prosthetics at UCLA, I gained an in-depth education in human anatomy and biomechanics. This launched a rewarding 40 year career of serving amputees and provided me with an appreciation for the human spirit’s capacity to transform loss into victory. My prosthetic training as well as my interactions with my patients has provided me with an eye for the wonders of the human body and a heart to sense the essence of the person before me. This was my milieu and it stimulated my yearning to express my insights in sculpture, leading me to pursue my art studies at Gage Academy in Seattle.
LH: Who are the artists that influence your work that you know in person?
DV: Yves Pires, Brigitte Teman, Kevin Patelle
LH: Name a living artist who you flat-out LOVE and think more people should go to see their work.
DV: Yves Pires, Marty Eichinger
LH: Who is your favorite artist(s)? Style? Period?
DV: Bernini, who did representational figurative sculpture during the Baroque Period of Italian art. Michelangelo’s sculptures during the Italian Renaissance. Rodin’s sculptures, whose works were done in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
LH: When is the first time you realized you were an artist?
DV: I believe the nun who was my teacher in 2nd grade noticed that I had an artistic bent when she saw my drawings and praised me for them.
LH: Describe your most recent artwork.
DV: My most recently completed sculpture is titled Persuasion. In this work, I chose to create an image of a male and female tugging in opposite directions. The image can conjure many questions. Are the figures caught in the eternal tug of opposing intentions? Does each playfully want to show the other his/her perspective? Is she saying goodbye and he is begging her to not leave? And can this image be viewed as a metaphor depicting the different sides of ourselves that oppose each other in our psyches?
Isn’t it intriguing how the parts of us that we disown are often manifested in the people around us who push our buttons! We lead with a primary sense of who we are and tend to smother the other–disowned–sides. Yet, our disowned facets are time-and-again triggered by the behavior and the choices of our partner, of our kids and of our coworkers. What does our continued reactivity teach us? Can we let it become a dance?
LH: What do people ask you when they come to see your work?
DV: The most common question that I get from viewers of my work is, “what is the process to get from a clay sculpture to a bronze?”
LH: How do you know when a work is finished?
DV: When I have created the right energy and visual interest in a sculpture, I know that it is complete because it “sings” to me!
LH: What are some ideas you have brewing for your next works?
DV: I am currently working on a life size sculpture of my four year old granddaughter. She is such a beguiling little girl, I feel compelled to attempt to capture some of her spirit in a sculpture! If I can get my seven year old grandson to even sit still for some photos without making funny faces, I will attempt to sculpt him as well in order to create a grouping of the two together.
LH: What are you up to right now? Current or upcoming projects, shows, experiments, collaborations, etc.
DV: I am really excited about a number of life size sculptures that are currently at the foundry being cast in bronze. They take my body of work to a whole new level.
LH: Do you prefer to work with others around or by yourself? Why? What does that look like?
DV: I actually am most productive when I work alone or alone with a live model. But I do get energy from creating art in the presence of other artists during my open studio sessions–in that setting, there is some cross pollination that occurs where we inspire each other.
LH: What’s your ultimate direction for your art? Where do you see yourself in 5 years, 10 years?
DV: I really want to have some sculptures installed as permanent public art.
LH: What aspect of making art excites you the most right now?
DV: In the midst of a busy, rather mundane day, I occasionally catch a glimpse of someone’s features and it nearly takes my breath away. Have you found yourself marveling at the gorgeousness of a complete stranger’s mouth or, perhaps, their stance as they stood talking? To me, those are transcendent moments where that curve of a girl’s lip or the expressiveness of an old man’s hand can create a sense of “ah-ha”; it’s then that the world feels whole and life seems so complete. In my sculptures, I endeavor to render the planes and contours of the human figure in a manner that evokes in you a similar visceral tug, permitting you to savor those eye-popping, synapse-charged moments that are otherwise only occasional and fleeting.
LH: What is it like to be an artist in Edmonds?
DV: Edmonds is a community that, in many ways, is focused on the arts–with its annual arts festival and artists’ studio tour. Yet, although I have focused largely on the Edmonds community for my art marketing, I have found that, as a market, its art patrons and collectors do not favor edgy art, or nude art. Even galleries here prefer to exhibit noncontroversial art works. As a result, we artists in Edmonds find ourselves seeking other markets for such works.
LH: What music do you play, if any, while making art?
DV: A wide variety of music: classical baroque, folk, country and reggae.
LH: Tell me about the classes that you teach and your interaction with students.
DV: Since 1998, I have been hosting open studio sessions with a live model. This is the only venue in all of South Snohomish County in which drawers and sculptors can work from a live model. The sessions are not “classes” per se, but are an opportunity for beginning as well as professional artists to benefit from the inspiration that can only be experienced from rendering their figurative art from life. It provides me with the chance to be among other artists and get energy from their passion for their art. The setting can be a great forum for professional exchange and very stimulating. The camaraderie is a nice counterpoint to hours of solitude while sculpting alone in the studio.
LH: How do you balance your art with other obligations – mate, children, job?
DV: It is a balancing act, but now that I am only working part time in prosthetics, I can devote more time to my art and promoting my art.
LH: How do you get the word out about your work?
DV: Locally, probably the most significant exposure that my art receives is by my being represented by Cole Gallery. But I also participate in local arts festivals and am pursuing efforts to display my art in more public art installations. Other marketing approaches, of course, are through social media, my website and email announcements about my upcoming shows.
Wishes and Wants:
LH: When someone is viewing your work for the first time, what do you hope they’ll see in it? Or, what do you want them to say about your work?
DV: We are all fascinated with the human image! In my sculptures, what both intrigues and excites me is to successfully create an image that, at first glance, grabs the viewer’s attention and carries your eyes along the dominant lines of the figure. In each sculpture, you are invited to discover the gesture or action line embedded in the work. Go ahead; view the work from other angles. With 3-D art, it is particularly satisfying for me to succeed in captivating your interest from all sides of the piece.
LH: What is one art tool or supply that you would take to your proverbial desert island?
DV: A wooden sculpting tool.
LH: If you could take a fantasy artist vacation anywhere in the world, where would it be? Your goal would be to soak in art history or to make your own art. Where would you go?
DV: I would spend a summer in Florence, Italy studying sculpture at the Accademia D’Arte
LH: Why are you drawn to work in bronze?
DV: Because I sculpt the entire sculpture in clay with a live model before me, I am able to capture the unique features of each model and a sense of their soul, their truth. Bronze figurative sculpture requires many steps to carefully capture its details and faithfully transform the clay original into virtually indestructible bronze. I like the durability of bronze—my bronzes will be around long after we are all gone.
LH: I’ve noticed that heightened emotions appear often in your work. What compels you to communicate in this way?
DV: My artistic mission is to generate allegories in bronze and glass that mirror the narrative of our lives. This, in turn, provides you the viewer with a glimpse of your own reflection. Whereas some of my works reflect a tranquility that seems almost eternal, others are very dynamic and kinetic. Some seem lyrical and light hearted, some are grief struck and still others are uplifting, even stirring. But all speak to the human condition and the spectrum of our experience through the compelling beauty and the singular expressiveness of the human body.
LH: For an artist, what does it mean to “be human?”
DV: For me, in my art, while rendering the individual, I attempt to express the universal; while capturing a moment, to convey the timeless. In that way, I am connecting with all of humanity.