2006-02-10 / Columnists

From The Artists Studio

Rockaway Artists Alliance A Neo-Byzantine Triptych And Arts @ Home

Rockaway Artists Alliance
A Neo-Byzantine Triptych And Arts @ Home

The Varga Triptych: An Iconographic depiction of Prophet Mohammed,
Jesus Christ and the Buddha.
The Varga Triptych: An Iconographic depiction of Prophet Mohammed, Jesus Christ and the Buddha. by Susan Hartenstein

Arts @ Fort Tilden: A Primary Exhibition is on view from Saturday, February 4 through Sunday, February 26 in sTudio 6 Gallery at the Rockaway Center of the Arts @ Fort Tilden. Gallery hours are:

Saturdays 12-4 p.m., Sundays 1-4 p.m. and by appointment.

For more information call 718 474-0861, email: rockart 116@aol.com or visit: www.rockawayartistsalli ance.org

RAA’s next general meeting: Monday, February 13 in building T-149, Fort Tilden.

Guest presentation: Art & Computers (including Photoshop) with Wendy K. Friend.

All are welcome. Bring your latest artwork.

Last week, this column introduced you to the Varga Gallery in Woodstock, New York and to its amazing owner Christina Varga. To recap, Christina Jorge’s captivatingly humorous and sensual sculpture, Vanilla or Chocolate?, 21st Century Twiggy that was shown in ARTSPLASH 2005, is part of the present group exhibition at the Varga, Owning It: Our Feminine Divine. The exhibit, which is on view throughout February, is a celebration of female visual, theatrical and literary artists, and the nurturing and spiritual strength of women. It includes various art and marketing workshops and arts events. The artwork is vibrant, involving, and of high quality. The scenic trip upstate will yield many rewards.

Upon meeting Christina Varga, one is struck by her physical and creative energy. It is an energy, which flows from her to everyone and everything around her. In fact, “flow” and “intuition” are essential concepts in Varga’s world.

After having exhibited and curated extensively in New York City, she established her own gallery because, as an artist, she was frustrated by the long and often tedious process of trying to get wall space in other people’s galleries. Taking the bull by the horns, the enterprising Varga, who received a degree in journalism and worked in marketing, wanted to provide an alternative space for herself and other quality artists who might otherwise find it an arduous task to exhibit their work. As Christina describes it, this is a place where artists and their work can flow in and out, and with each other, in a spontaneous stream of creative synergy. his is in large measure an intuitive process for all, fostered by the immediacy of the ease of opportunity provided. Much of the art displayed at the gallery is “outsider art” that is the product of impulse and instinct. Varga believes that it is this instinct that is the divine voice within all artists — especially women, who can bring forth life. Christina has, therefore, a rather “Nike-esque” philosophy – don’t over-intellectualize, just do it.

She hangs the exhibits in the same spirit. She goes by her quick, intuitive sense of the flow of the work; of how they flow together and which artworks “vibrate” with the same pulse. She does not “calculate” placement. Thus, the smallish gallery that is filled with artwork doesn’t feel crowded, but has instead the sense of bursting with energy and life.

The centerpiece of Owning It: Our Feminine Divine, to my mind, is the monumental three-paneled triptych by Christina Varga that most recently was on display at the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Devine. Each panel is an iconic depiction of the three men who were forces of change in human spirituality – Buddha, Jesus Christ and Mohammed whose face is, of course, not represented but covered in calligraphic characters.

This extraordinary work is painted on three doors the artist found in the street. (Using materials that “flow” into Varga’s gallery and life are, again, an important element of her art and philosophy of creating in the moment.) Each panel is 6 feet high (9 feet on its stands) and 2 ½ feet wide. The depictions of the men are “sculpted” in multiple, textured layers of oil paint, sand, mica dust and varnish.

The backs of the panels, depicting three symbols of the three religions, are fabricated in hand-cut wood mosaic fashioned from the strips of wooden crates. The work is Byzantine in lineage, contemporary in impulse and eternal in philosophy.

It is also stunning in execution.

Varga is presently working on a fourth panel depicting the Woman Clothed by the Sun from the Book of Revelations, which will serve as a kind of self-portrait. Though the triptych depicts three religions, the images and symbols form a work that is transcendent of individual religions and is about the threads in human spirituality that unify us all.

The body of Varga’s artwork is wide-ranging and difficult to classify in any one style, though the Byzantine color palette is a major influence. But when asked if it has an over-riding thrust, she responds that it is to funnel impulse, uncensored, to allow it complete fluidity. Further, to keep the work visually easy on the eyes, beautiful and uplifting.

The Varga Gallery now hosts exhibitions of local and regional artists as well as international outsider artists. It was recently said of it that it is the “anti-establishment gallery that has become established.” Visit it at 130 Tinker Street in the arts community of Woodstock.

Learn more about it at: www.vargagallery.com

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