A public garden & cultural center

Annie Varnot

Call & Response | September 10–December 3, 2017

Pictured above: Shed, 2017, wire, glue, plaster, paint, 8 x 3 1/2 x 3 1/2 feet. Courtesy of the artist and Wave Hill. Photo: Stefan Hagen. 

Annie Varnot turns 45 this year, the tenth year since she was diagnosed with cancer. She has been exploring examples of how aging and the health of living things are recorded in such natural phenomena as tree rings and elk antlers. For this exhibition, Varnot has created a shed antler with 45 points representing her own age. As with her 2012 Sunroom Project, W/hole, this new work touches on the theme of life’s impermanence, renewal and growth.

Sunroom Project Space | May 19–July 1, 2012

W/hole2012, eggshells and hydrocal, dimensions variable. Courtesy of the artist.

Annie Varnot accumulates discarded objects and nontraditional materials, transforming them through painstaking methods into sculptures and installations. Both material and process are significant to the content of her work. She began her current, highly personal body of work a few years ago during a residency at Ross Creek Centre for the Arts in Nova Scotia. Varnot had been diagnosed with breast cancer and was grappling with how to come to terms with the illness and her own mortality. Varnot befriended a nearby poultry farmer and collected eggs that were deemed “unsellable” according to agricultural standards. She washed and hollowed the dirty or irregularly shaped eggs, thereby salvaging these cast-offs. Associating the fragility of these eggs with her own vulnerable physical and emotional state, Varnot decided to use them as artistic material. She set each egg in plaster to make hundreds of ambiguous sculptural forms with odd protrusions that are mysterious yet seem strangely familiar.

Her Sunroom Project, W/hole, emerges from a desire to create a serene space for contemplating life’s impermanence, as well as the potential for renewal and growth. The sculptures evoke a range of associations from sexual organs to tumors to living cells or microorganisms. Varnot’s videos, which accompany the sculptural elements of the installation, focus on process by attempting to elucidate the visceral experience of working with these eggs. At the same time, the violent acts depicted—puncturing the eggshell, draining its contents—speak to the trauma of going through the invasive medical procedures used to battle life-threatening diseases. The videos work in conjunction and in tension with the white objects on view as vehicles for overcoming the fear of the unknown and for reflecting on the cycle of life, death and renewal.




W/hole2012, eggshells and hydrocal, dimensions variable. Courtesy of the artist.

W/hole, 2012

W/hole, 2012, video still. Courtesy of the artist

Artist website

The Arts at Wave Hill are supported by the Lily Auchincloss Foundation, Inc.; Michael J. Shannon; Milton and Sally Avery Arts Foundation; the National Endowment for the Arts; New York City Department of Cultural Affairs; New York Community Trust Edward and Sally Van Lier Fund; New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature; The Pollock-Krasner Foundation; The Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation; and by the Cathy and Stephen Weinroth Commissioning Fund for the Arts.