Sunday, November 04, 2012

LOCAL Q AND A: Barbara M. de Varona a.k.a. The Egghead

Barbara M. de Varona in her studio during last month's Second Saturday Art Walk (Photo by Arterpillar) All other photos provided courtesy of the artist.

During last month's Second Saturday Art Walk, I dropped into the studio of Barbara M. de Varona, which is tucked down a hallway at Eleazar Delgado Studio in Wynwood.

Having seen images from her Egghead series online, I was curious about the stick figure whose head is a cracked egg.  In "Egg in a Basket," an acrylic on canvas, Egghead is depicted scrunched up in an egg-shaped cage-like structure that's too small for him to stand up in. Instead, he sits hunched over, with the bottom of his bent legs sticking out from between the bars,

Barbara M. de Varona in her studio
"Up a Tree," a mixed-media on paper work, shows Egghead sitting on a thin limb of a dead tree, while "Beaten Egg," perhaps one of the saddest, has the character sitting on the floor of an empty room, with red dripping from the cracks of his egg-shaped head. He is leaning against a wall and looking downward. Beside him is what looks like a blood -covered stick.

Clearly, Egghead has experienced some near total breakages, but despite cracks and sad predicaments, continues on, perhaps as a symbol of fragility and strength. Some works depict the character fishing ("Needy Egg") or standing with his hands up to his head at a counter marked "Trade Ins." On the counter in front of him is a fresh egg, one that looks less tattered than the one that currently contains his brain.

Barbara, or Egghead as some now call her, provided a tour of her space, showed us some of her works and told me about her blog, Egglosophies. A few weeks later, via an e-mail interview, she shared more about her Egghead series and some of her other projects, including I.AM.WYNWOOD, her series of portraits of the people who make Wynwood Wynwood.

ARTERPILLAR: When did you begin creating art?

BMD: I believe I was conceptualizing in the womb. Actually, I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t creating something… If it wasn’t drawings, it was writings, but there was always something. I remember mermaids. I drew those a lot around age 10, and wrote poetry all the time.

The first in the Egghead series.
ARTERPILLAR: Tell me about the day you drew your first egg, and what this came to mean to you?

BMD: Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, I truly believe, made it happen. Hers is an excellent process in breaking down artist's block through a great deal of self-actualizing exercises. Morning pages are among those exercises, and the basic idea there is to take 30 minutes at the start of each day and purge away the mind clutter. I did that for months, and and anyone who’s done any sort of journaling knows that after a while, it can get repetitive, and if you’re anything like me, you really get sick of your own noise. At the time, I didn’t realize this was normal, so I really felt like I was failing at the process as it became more and more difficult to write this way. But I did it anyway…

Julia promises that there will be moments of insight weaved within the nonsense. She’s right. When there was nothing left to write, I doodled, on the margin of the page, and there he was. Rather than writing it out, I drew what I felt. By that time I was so tired mentally that it had to be the simplest, most elementary drawing possible… a stick figure. His head looked sort of like an egg; I cracked it. It was how I felt! That day, I moved away from the pages and onto the canvas. Egghead became my form of journaling, through images. And this felt more honest, more precise, and more complete than anything I’d done before it.

ARTERPILLAR: What sort of doors has Egghead helped you to open?

BMD: He shows me myself, in a comprehensive way that helps me understand absurdities, realities and above all, possibility. See, he really wasn’t a very positive guy, at first, but neither was I… Whatever was expressed within the work had a tendency to be bleak; sometimes fatalistic. Something changed though. I’m in the process of discovering exactly what, but, although the works remained the same, my perception of them and their meanings changed. Everything grew a silver lining… It’s really the weirdest thing, but true. And I’m a better person for having allowed him (allowed myself) to take this little journey on canvas…

ARTERPILLAR: Where do you plan to take Egghead now?

BMD: I feel like I have to explore these new meanings further, and because of the positive nature of what I’m discovering, I feel like sharing what I’ve learned. I recently began Egglosophies, a blog spun off the Egghead series, which aims to do exactly that, through more in-depth descriptions of the individual works and some explorative writing.

ARTERPILLAR: I understand you made a piece of Egghead art to place on the street recently in Wynwood, as art to be found. Can you tell me about that?

BMD: I walked from Eleazar Delgado Studio all the way to Gregg Sheinbaum Fine Art with no clue what I was doing. I dropped in and said hi to Gregg who offered up some advice. I'd never left anything out in the world like that before but Gregg assured me that many of the artists do it.  I even called Buddah Funk, feeling super weird about the whole thing. He does it all the time with his stunning El Dorado stencil pieces and feels it's just a way of sharing of yourself, a giving gesture to the Universe.  On my stroll back from Gregg's I kept my eyes peeled. I found a thumbtack on a tree just across from Gallery 212.

EGGHEAD: Shortly before his very short-lived life on the street
ARTERPILLAR: You were approached by a woman with a camera, who caught you in the act?

BMD: Yes, my ninja skills are an epic fail. She took this picture and asked what I was doing. We got to talking and after we were done she hilariously snatched it. "Ok, bye!!!" she said giggling and took off! I will probably do this one or two more times for fun, and the little figures will be available at the studio during Art Basel.

ARTERPILLAR: As an artist, do you go by BMD, as it says on your website? And have you earned an egg-related nickname?

BMD: I sign BMD, and go by Barbara M de Varona a.k.a the Egghead. I get called Egghead, Myra [Wexler] calls me Madame Egghead... Vince ["BadPanda Herrera] always called me Eggie. Im getting "the egg artist" alot and I love it.

ARTERPILLAR: When did you move into the space at Eleazar Delgado Studio and how did that come about?

BMD and Eleazar Delgado
BMD: Ele and I came together at a time when I was really struggling for exposure and he was one man building some of the most complex, multi-layered pieces I had seen to date: his Kinetic Collection. The complexity of that collection is what got us joking about working together, when he was like, "Ahhh I need to find an assistant!" and I was like, "Well let me know when that job opens up!!" Totally joking at first, we both had a "hmmmm" moment and the rest is history

He was generous with the space he offered and that alone would have been worthwhile, but Ele is a God-send. And I owe him much, much more than just the rent. The gift that has been Eleazar Delgado in my life, I can’t put into words. Forget the fact that I am in Wynwood because of Eleazar Delgado. His impact runs much deeper… Go Team EDR! … I’m a big fan.

ARTERPILLAR: How did the idea for your new I.AM.WYNWOOD Project come about?
BMD: Deep Ellum, Dallas. I visited my friends in June and there’s a fabulous area there; I’ve described it as a concrete garden. Artists have painted onto large slabs of concrete, and these are displayed on various medians beneath an overpass – it’s spectacular. One artist included the words, ‘I Am Deep Ellum’ in his or her piece – I wish I knew their name.

At the time, I was even newer to Wynwood than I am now, so my initial thought when reading this was, ‘Am I Wynwood?’ I fell in love with the notion that whatever is built, isn’t so much defined by where but rather by who. While Wynwood is a location on our map, and at that location are buildings, within which are housed artist studios, cafes, businesses and the like… Wynwood, the community, is much greater than the sum of its parts. It has a soul, an essence and that essence has many faces, with perhaps something of a threat arising. In terms terms of rent increases, for example, many of the artists have congregated and discussed fears, options – perhaps a lack thereof. I’m moved by the passion that fuels this place; it fires up my own. I’ve been embraced by this community and admire so many of its members. I’m moved to celebrate them.

ARTERPILLAR: Can you briefly sum up the criteria for the subjects you wish to depict in this project?

Kerry McLaney of Miami Independent Thinkers
BMD: My initial aim was to create 15-20 portraits of artists and artful people within our Wynwood community, who in the end help make Wynwood all that it is. I knew I couldn’t make a portrait of every face, but I could try to build a bit of a collection, maybe of some of the more recognized ones… Most of that has gone out the window, with submissions now in the 50s.


Do the subjects provide a variety of photos for you to choose from, and then you base the work on one of those?

BMD: Kerry McLaney (Miami Independent Thinkers)
offered up three, but I think she was only serious about the cat, and being the over the top animal lover advocate fan maniac that I am, you know I just had to include it in her piece. Most others just posted one. I don’t ask for a specific number, only that the pictures represent who they are to the Wynwood community, how they feel they contribute to the delicious brew that is Wynwood.

ARTERPILLAR: Between your own choices and the suggestions you received, how many subjects are you now planning to include?

BMD: As many as I can make between now and Art Basel, as many as time will allow.

Corazon de Oro, BMD's portrait of BadPanda
ARTERPILLAR: Is there anyone you think will be particularly challenging to draw?

BMD: Vince "BadPanda" Herrera has been the most challenging. And I think that’s because Vince Herrera, the artist, is also BadPanda, the icon or character., and everyone knows that! So, my challenge was in finding a balance between the person and the icon. I hope I did OK.

ARTERPILLAR: Are submissions still rolling in?

BMD: They’re still coming! Today I was approached by IAM TMNK. He’s a New York artist but his "Art is my Weapon" concepts and imagery are present in Wynwood, and synonymous now with Wynwood’s YoMOMMA a.k.a. Myra Wexler.

ARTERPILLAR: Will your works be sketches, paintings, a combination? Will you write anything about each of them to go with the pieces?

BMD: Mixed media, all around. Each title will represent an aspect of the person, either as I know them or as they represent themselves. Other details I’ll include are websites and any information on what the individual does.

ARTERPILLAR:When/where will you exhibit these?

BMD: I.AM.WYNWOOD’ (or at least the first 15-20 portraits of the series), will be shown during Art Basel at my Wynwood home: B M de Varona Art Space at Eleazar Delgado Studio (Studio B). The space is huge for my day-to day-needs but tiny for the madhouse that is Art Basel:. This should be interesting.

BMD says this image is speaking to her right now.

BOOK: "The Picture of Dorian Gray because it is delicious and delightful, dark and haunting."

MOVIE: "The Nightmare Before Christmas because I can quote the whole thing, and that makes me smile."

ARTISTS: "Tim Burton, Frida Kahlo, Egon Schiele, Eleazar Delgado."

VICE:  "Oversleeping."

FOOD: "Can bubble tea be a food? Avocado-lychee snow milk with lychee-coconut jelly and black tapioca pearls #mypersonalheaven."

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  1. I think you get a glimpse at the artist that is right on the money. I would know, I am her husband.....great piece!


  2. Love the piece...and the artist!