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“I’m really looking at something INTENSELY—the colors, lights, darks, forms and shapes ... to go into something totally ABSTRACT AND STILL compelling.” more local haunts including the views surrounding her home. She tells great stories of landscape painting in a prior era: “It’s harder to find a place in Charlottesville [to paint] than it used to be… You could ring a doorbell, ask permission to paint and then be invited in for a drink.” In recent years, Varner has begun creating abstract paintings, which, at first analysis, seems a strange leap from her lifelong focus on portraiture and realism. But when looking at them, their powerful, consistent style indicates a clear understanding of the abstraction. For Varner, these paintings are a natural and exciting outgrowth of her other work. Through removing the question of representation, she distills the synergism between the analytical elements of a painting to find the magic that occurs in the moment where everything coalesces. “I’m really looking at something intensely—the colors, lights, darks, forms and shapes. My heart is to be taking all that knowledge and transferring that to these abstractions. And it’s the hardest—to go into something totally abstract and still compelling.” Yet, Varner is certainly successful as an abstract painter, producing


works full of dynamism and complex color relationships. In her studio next to some of her more recent representational paintings, the two genres form a clear dialogue that expresses her overarching interest in color and shape. In fact, as Varner describes her painting process, it’s possible for a painting that begins outside, taking in a landscape, to develop into an abstract work. “Although I paint a lot outside, I am gathering information about the atmosphere, the light, the forms, the feeling of being in this place, and then I bring it all back to the studio and try to elevate this information into something more than a postcard painting. Sometimes the paintings undergo very little change and other times they completely lose all representational aspects as I scrape down and scratch out large areas and concentrate on more of the abstract elements of the paint.” Varner is adamant that she is not a plein-air painter, calling herself more of a “fair-weather painter for sure,” which is interesting when learning that January is her favorite month for painting landscapes. Her walls are decorated with several autumnal views that capture

Profile for Ivy Publications

Wine & Country Living Spring 2017  

Wine & Country Living Spring 2017