Virginia Warwick was born in 1982 and grew up in Frederick, Maryland.
Growing up in the country and being surrounded by nature has no doubt influenced Virginia’s art-making. She graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park in 2005, and soon entered Rinehart School of Sculpture at MICA and was part of the Artscape Outdoor Sculpture Competition for two consecutive years.
Since graduating from Rinehart in 2008 she has been showing consistently. She considers herself a multidisciplinary artist and all her artwork exist between realities and revolves around the themes of nature and transformation. Her work has been shown at such places as the Arlington Arts Center, ConnerSmith, Edison Place Gallery, Hood College, Goucher College, City Arts Gallery, Metro Gallery, Creative Alliance, Current Gallery, and Visarts at Rockville. She has been included in the Transmodern Festival in Baltimore for multiple years and has participated in two performance arts festivals in New York. One at the Brooklyn International Performance Arts Festival in New York City and the other at the Infringement Festival in Buffalo, New York. Virginia currently lives and works in Frederick, where she teaches and creates art.
My artwork is a vibrant exaggeration of a natural color palette, which is key in the conceptual ideas underlining my work. The materials and subjects interplay with one another, creating themes of transformation and escapism.
The work exists between realities, as the materials are familiar through a human’s viewpoint, but are transformed into themes of sea, nature and animal worlds. Inspired by surrealism, I merge land, sea and human environments, creating a mystical world within a composition or piece of work. I juxtapose these different subjects, disregarding their true scale and treat them all as shapes fitting together as puzzle pieces. I am in awe of nature and animals and want to be a part of their world and them a part of mine. Through transforming materials and juxtaposing vibrant colors I can relate to these other worldly environments that I create in a composition, performance, installation or sculpture. In my artwork I create environments and scenarios that are absurd, nonsensical and elude dark humor.
Hello Virginia! What inspired you to pursue art?
Virginia: From an early age I was exposed to art-making from my mother who is an artist as well. I always gravitated to taking art classes throughout grade school. When entering college, I first declared my major in Theater, but after two years I realized my path was more inline with visual arts and I then switched majors to Studio Art. It is hard to explain what inspired me to return to my roots in art-making, but I can say that I thrive in creating and sharing art not only for personal pleasure but because of a vision to spread inspiration to viewers in their daily lives.
Your art is very unique. What was the creative process for your first pieces and what did you learn from their fabrication?
Virginia: When studying at the University of Maryland, College Park I was given a lot of freedom to experiment with different materials, learning how to transform them from their original forms. For instance, I remember using such materials as styrofoam, wax, plaster, yarn, wood, sponges, and transforming these ordinary materials into art. I would occasionally do sketches but the majority of the time I would work more intuitively and let the material guide the art-making process. I learned about transformation and how to manipulate materials into a work of art that a viewer can be interpreted differently and be inspired by.
Could you walk us through your process? How much planning do you do before you jump into creating an artwork? If you do, what are you trying to solve at each stage of it?
Virginia: With my paintings, I will refer to photographs and magazine clippings and compile images into one large sketch to form a composition combining different worlds. I do use a sketchbook more for my sculptural pieces. Sometimes I’ll do a sketch of an assemblage or sculpture and then years later find myself making that piece without even referring to the original sketch. That always surprises me. So, there isn’t a lot of planning involved when I make my pieces, it is more of an intuitive process, guided by imagery and the materials.
You say you create environments and scenarios that can seem absurd. Could you tell me more about that?
Virginia: Specifically, in the paintings, the juxtaposition of animals and sea anemones brings the viewer into a world or environment where it can seem absurd and might not make sense at first. But, my intention is to combine these opposing worlds in order to elevate animals and nature to the same level of humans. Similarly, with the assemblages and sculptures, I use human-made materials combined with nature or sea themes and seek to heighten the one’s point of view to carry nature and animals to the same level as humans. It seems absurd to pair these worlds together, but I have a goal of elevating nature and animals. And in the performances that I have done in the past, I wear costumes inspired by nature and create scenarios that are embedded both in absurdity and humor.
What are your biggest challenges as artists?
Virginia: I don’t find many challenges in being inspired to create, or to produce art, but have challenges in marketing myself to the best of my ability. I think marketing and the business of being an artist is something that I need to focus on, just as much as being in the studio.
What is the work you’ve done that you’re the most excited about?
Virginia: This past year I reviewed my portfolio when updating my website and what I gravitated the most to was my sculptures and performance art.
Tell me more about your art performances.
Virginia: In past projects, I have combined my love of costume making, theater, and music in performance art that really drives home my intentions in art-making. The ideas of combining the worlds of animals, by literally dressing as one, with that of music and narratives invite viewers into a world of nature, animals, and humor combined.
Who are a few artists/people that really inspire you?
Virginia: My top artist that has inspired me is Yayoi Kusama. I was first introduced to her back in 2005 by researching her. She really brings the viewer into her own world and transforms the idea of reality successfully, which I admire. I also admire her because of all the struggles she has gone through in her life and then being able to achieve so much. Another female artist I admire is Shinique Smith. Her life has taken twists and turns in artistic careers and endeavors, which inspires me because there was a period of time after graduating from grad school where I felt sidetracked from art-making, but you can always regain your path. And last, I admire and am inspired by Maren Hassinger. She was the director at Rinehart School of Sculpture at MICA, where I went for grad school, and she has always been a constant support, even currently to this day.
What memorable responses have you had to your work?
Virginia: I recently got engaged, and my uncle said to me when he found out, “no turtle or squirrel costumes at the wedding please” That is how frequently I dress up. But I also remember a fellow grad school classmate seeing my coral reef sculpture in my thesis show at MICA for the first time and exclaiming to me, “Virginia, your coral reef is AMAZING” I really respect that classmate, so I took the compliment to heart.
What is the best way to reach people that are interested in your art?
How do you see the art evolving in the next five years?
Virginia: I can definitely see myself returning to performance art, but making costumes that are not so literal to animal beings. I still picture myself focusing on the transformation of materials and the idea of combining the animal and human world but more in the disciplines of storytelling with videos, music, and even comedy.