Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Mixed Media Artist to Demonstrate at Gallery 54

From Potsdam, NY to Point Loma in San Diego, to Skaneateles. From the Tree of Life, to Between Heaven and Earth, to the Japan Bird Project it's hard to pigeon hole (pun intended) Warner Varno and her art. The word “beautiful” might suffice, yet somehow it even comes up short.

Warner Varno
Warner and her art, mixed media on canvas, are featured at Gallery 54 throughout the month of January and into mid-February. On January 27 besides the impressive pieces on exhibit and available for purchase, Warner will demonstrate the techniques that resonate in her work between 12 and 3 pm.

She began creating her art during study halls and her lunch period while still a high school student at Jordan-Elbridge High School. However, she says it wasn't until she was studying fine art and anthropology at SUNY Potsdam that she became truly engaged in learning. “ I was learning so many different things at such a rapid pace as a double major; I really needed to process all the thinking through my art, all my questions and feelings about what I was learning as well,” she says.

Her attraction to art was found, in her words “. . . in a pull to process the world around me and what I was learning through making the work. I ask questions as well as record events and information and ‘write’ stories through my artwork. Making art for me is how I process my internal and external world, it is how I ask questions, analyze and record new information, and sometimes to gain a level of 'understanding' I would not have access to otherwise.”

Most recently,” she notes, “I have found 'play' to be a highly attractive quality of my art making process as well as the element of surprise. I surprise myself now more than ever, letting go of some control and allowing the work to puzzle itself out to a feeling of completion.”

Warner describes her work, especially the larger pieces, “as ‘bone gardens’ of a sort,” adding “but I am also a storyteller. I am interested in layering both the media and the subject matter, almost weaving these elements together, sometimes literally and sometimes using transparency. I paint about life cycles and like to envelop all of that inside something I feel is beautiful in its own peculiar way and also celebratory of the lived experience of being human.”

Some of her work exhibited at Gallery 54 originated in a show titled Bright Wings, held at Point Loma in San Diego. Another element, The Japan Birds Project, is a fund raising project for Time for Art class scholarships. Warner has 50 Western Bird Designs currently available and 50 Eastern designs are in the works.

During the demonstration, Syracuse Salt Company will also provide tastings of their variety of culinary salts.

Gallery 54 is an upscale venue for Central New York artists that showcases and sells unique, inspired, and timeless art in a diversity of mediums.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Gallery 54 artist featured in Auburn Citizen

A Denver, Colorado-based art enrichment program is opening a second branch on Mary Street in Auburn. 
Central New York native Warner K. Varno, a master teaching artist and founder of Time for Art, said she's starting off the new year with a soft opening, but she has big plans for the program's future. Classes in drawing, painting, sculpture, mixed media and recycled art for those in kindergarten through sixth grade will start after school Mondays and Wednesdays in January, in addition to a Saturday studio time.
Central New York native Warner Varno is a master
teaching artist and founder of Time for Art, a 
Denver, Colorado-based art enrichment program. 
Varno is opening a second branch of Time for Art 
on Mary Street in Auburn.
Kevin Rivoli, The Citizen
Varno is lifting the new business off the ground as the sole art teacher, but she plans to pull in others as the program grows. She hopes to make Time for Art a nonprofit organization, too. Much of what she's working to establish in the Auburn location comes from the work already happening in Denver — summer camps, after school programs, studio time for all ages to work on projects. She's also developed scholarship programs for families.
"Especially people pulling in from rural areas around Auburn, I want them to be able to afford it and get high quality instruction, and not just from me," she said. "It's a slow incremental thing. We're here, but we're not ready to go. We have to go through this phase of transition."
The transition involves the 23 Mary St. location called The Shop. Julie Varno, Warner's mother, cut and styled women's hair there for 53 years. It started in 1964 as Joy and Julie's, a salon with Joy Tripiciano. Julie took it on solo from 1988 to 2015 before Janiece Oliver came on board, cutting men's hair. The city of Auburn granted a variance to convert the shop into an art school this year, but Oliver will continue cutting hair there at least until the summer, Varno said. 
Born in Auburn, Varno grew up in Elbridge and now lives in Skaneateles. It was a while before she circled back to her old stomping grounds, however. After finishing up her degrees in fine art and anthropology at SUNY Potsdam, she worked at Fort Drum conducting a cultural resource survey for Native American artifacts. She left the Army base to paint furniture at MacKenzie-Childs. 
In 1998, Varno headed west, spending some time in Colorado and California. She took an archaeology job in the Sacramento area, while displaying some of her work in an all-women's art studio called Matrix. Through a grant from the gallery, Varno found art in a new light — through education. Bringing art and literacy to a local school, Varno found herself reading to children, many of whom did not speak English.
"We used art to understand the book they were supposed to be reading, and it was so cool," she said. "Art was the language, and a little bit of performance and a lot of visual art. That's when I returned to Colorado and would get the master's and focus on teaching art in schools."
Varno got her teaching license from the University of Denver, specializing in kindergarten through 12th grade curriculum and instruction with a focus on art and visual culture. Visiting multiple schools, Varno found that many students did not have art opportunities, and what classes were available were pitifully short, she said.
In 2006, Varno opened Time for Art in Denver. Her friend and colleague Ippy Farnam is running things there while Varno is getting the Auburn location up and running. Besides the Mary Street space, Varno has also been teaching art and yoga classes at the Skaneateles YMCA and Community Center, and displaying and selling her own art in the Skaneateles shop Gallery 54.
While there are some existing art programs in the area, Varno said what sets hers apart is its more playful nature combined with high-quality art lessons. She incorporates yoga into her classes, using breathing exercises to get children ready to make their masterpieces. 
"The yoga is really like to prepare and just connect with the breath, and get ready to make the art," she said.
As for the art part, Varno compares her teaching style to the old master painters during the Renaissance, teaching apprentices about their own experiences. This is why Varno is looking forward to bringing in other artists to teach, she said, so students can broaden their skills, scope of work and approaches to creation. 
Staff writer Gwendolyn Craig can be reached at (315) 282-2237 or Follow her on Twitter @gwendolynnn1.