Varga Gallery & Studio Woodstock, NY
The first time I heard the name Christina Varga, it was in the same sentence as the word “tie-dye”, in reference to your tie-dye event during the 40 year celebration of the Woodstock festival. Tie-dyed patterns always make me happy. Same for you?
YES. I love patterns and color.
Flamboyance and freedom are the two words that come to mind when I look at your work. Was there ever a time when you felt constrained and restricted by art?
I feel constrained and restricted by people who judge the artwork that I make, but I don’t feel constrained and restricted by my artwork. Maybe by the art industry…
You celebrate outsider art. Tell me about your mission.
My mission is to live on my highest and best path – which I do through my own artwork and by providing a forum for people to share their work with others. Artwork needs space to exhibit. Making sure the space exists allows people to share their inner visions and connect by communicating in an abstract language.
David Bowie is an artist I don’t think about for long stretches of time and then something or someone reminds me how great he is. You have a series of works devoted to him and you describe him as a visionary. Do you see him primarily as a musician, actor or performance artist?
I see him as a creative avatar who fountains his essence through all outlets including film, music, art, print media, photography. I don’t think the true creative person can prevent themselves from being creative in all their projects. Everything Bowie presents is a brilliant expression of himself as the perfect David Bowie. He’s a real visionary.
When you begin a new work, are you contemplative or compulsive? Do you need to start in right now with whatever materials are at hand or let an idea take shape in your imagination?
Both. I will contemplate ideas or series for long stretches of time, then compulsively begin them with whatever materials I have at hand. I’ll buy things as I need them for projects and the leftovers are used for future impulses.
Are there any rules worth making or following about art and/or artists?
I don’t know of any except to be true to yourself, but I think most artists are not encouraged to do that.
When and if you visit a traditional gallery or famous museum, how do you react to the work enshrined there?
Like pillars of art society in a shrine.
What does it take to be a VARGA Girl? What was the origin of that series? Do you get old-school feminist flak about it?
I have recently started thinking of myself as a progressive feminist. I don’t consider myself to be what is traditionally regarded as a feminist. I am anti-militant, not that angry about it and mostly just happy to be a woman. Very entrepreneurial. I make the VARGA Girls out of vintage mags -60′s, 70′s – and like that period of time before boob jobs, collagen and too much peroxide. VARGA Girls are very natural.
I watched an archived episode of your cable show, Apocalypse Varga, in which a young singer called Erica performs her songs. One minute, you see this self-conscious ordinary fifteen year old and then… she plays and sings! Made me think, our art is more “us” than we are. Exhilarating and scary. Does that make sense?
Yes, it is very good to be carried away with your message and that is what a lot of musicians and artists do – especially when they are mostly untrained, naturally talented and fresh.
What’s coming up in the VARGA Gallery?
The year wraps with a Holiday Showcase of works by members of the collective. I look forward to new artist members joining and exhibiting their works in the gallery in 2010 and making my own line of sewn works–whatever they may turn out to be. I plan on spending some time sewing this winter. The January Kick-Off show is always fun and I do the February Women’s show every year. Then we zip through the year again–where do all these years go!!!??? I opened in 2003. Can’t believe it will be 7 years.
–Visit the VARGA Gallery website.
Interviewed by Carol Reid