Come Closer pays attention to detail

by Keith Barber

Artist Mona Wu’s woodcuts and etchings grace the walls of Artworks Gallery as part of the exhibition, Come Closer, which runs through Oct. 1. (courtesy photo)

Nothing goes to waste in Kimberly Varnadoe’s art studio. “It waits to get reinvented,” she says. The two Polaroid photo emulsions placed side-by-side in her work “Key West Doorway” give a measure of insight into Varnadoe’s talent for taking seemingly ordinary objects — like two discarded Polaroid photographs taken 15 years ago — and combining them into a striking collage. In the case of “Untitled Triptych,” Varnadoe manipulated three out-of-focus shots — the ones that normally come at the end of a developed roll of 35-millimeter film — and created perfec- tion from imperfection. Both are part of the exhibit, Come Closer, which is currently on dis- play at Artworks Gallery in downtown Winston-Salem. Varnadoe joined forces with local artist Mona Wu, whose woodcuts and etchings also grace the walls of Artworks, to create Come Closer. An artist reception for Varnadoe and Wu will be held Sunday from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. The exhibit runs through Oct. 1. To create her relief prints, Wu carved onto six plywood boards, rolled ink onto the boards, using two boards to create the cross-grain cut effect and make a single relief print onto rag paper. The three prints form the triptych, “Northern Red Oak,” “Eastern White Pine” and “Red Maple.” The boards that acted as typefaces are also on full display in Come Closer. In Wu’s “Homage to Hans Hofmann,” she pays tribute to the abstract expressionist painter known for his famous push-pull theory, which describes “the plasticity of three-dimensionality translated to two- dimensionality,” according to the website, Wu takes an old vinyl LP and used gauze to rub vibrant colors on the record. Wu left some gauze on the record and cranked it through the printing press, creat- ing an indelible, Hans Hofmann-esque expressionist feel to the work. In “Symbols from Old Culture,” Wu draws her inspiration from the design of Chinese ceramic pieces and uses the Aquatint intaglio printmaking technique, a special variation of etching to create the unique work. A copper plate in the shape of a vinyl LP, Wu said she can make a number of editions because the inked plate can be passed through the printing press as many times as she wishes.

In previous shows, Varnadoe, a studio art professor at Salem College, has worked in a much larger format, with photos as big as 20 inches by 24 inches. In Come Closer, she creates works that reflect the average photo print size of 3 by 5.

“I’m going back to a smaller stage,” Varnadoe said. “My studio space is a little smaller now and that’s reflected in the work.” With Polaroid discontinuing production its trademark instant film sev- eral years ago, Varnadoe has turned to the Impossible Project to acquire her film materials. Three years ago, 10 former Polaroid employees saved the last Polaroid plant in the Netherlands and created their own version of instant analog photography, according to the website, Varnadoe utilizes the “Impossible” film in her photo series of angel statues entitled Curtains. Varnadoe also shows off the fruits of her labors while participating in the Penland resident artist program. Varnadoe uses letter press printing and pulls quotes from a number of sources, including Tori Amos’s lyrics from her song “Icicle,” author Tom Robbins book, Skinny Legs and All and Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s book Gift from the Sea. To create “Fly Away,” Varnadoe took a black-and-white Polaroid photo emulsion and “squeegeed” it onto a separate surface in her dark- room. The angel photo is a contact print taken from a negative shot years ago with her Brownie camera. She then added Amos’s lyrics, “I think the good book is missing some pages,” to complete the multi-media effect. Varnadoe does all her own framing with highly detailed mattes, using tacks and water soluble pencil to create her one-of-a-kind works. Varnadoe and Wu share a talent from creating something extraordinary from ordinary and often discarded objects of our everyday lives. Come Closer celebrates the passion of the artist to find beauty in the most unex- pected places.

wanna go?

An artist reception for Come Closer will be held at Artworks Gallery, 564 N. Trade St. in downtown Winston-Salem, on Sunday from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. For further info, call 336.723.5890.