Artists Caroll Williams and Donna Varner connect through 'Signs, Lines and Symbols'

jpaprocki@islandpacket.comMay 24, 2013 

DONNA VARNER — By Jean-Marie Cote

Photography and assemblage art may seem vastly different, but Caroll Williams and Donna Varner have found a connection.

The two friends are staging "Signs, Lines and Symbols" through June 29 at the Hilton Head library. It's a collection of Williams' assemblage art and Varner's photography connected in an abstract sense.

Varner and Williams, in their second joint show, explain how their two art forms intersect.

Question. How did the idea for the show come about?

Varner. It all started at a gas station (laughs).

Williams. I had all of these gas station letters, you know, the symbols used on gas station signs. My husband and I were in Seattle for our anniversary. We were going to junk stores and there were stacks of these things. When I got home, I just started playing around with them. Donna would stop by every now and again and say, "Oh, that looks cool."

Varner. I had been doing a photography still-life project. I use a special technique with back lighting. I started fooling around with things that look like Caroll's gas station letters.

Williams. The more we thought about it the more things we found in common.

Varner. The creative process goes like spaghetti -- one thing goes to another and winds around.

Q. How is your work similar?

Varner. These photographs are like assembled materials. But not permanent. I'm collaging things, but they're not glued down. I assemble them on a lightpad so everything is backlit and I take the photo. I had fun finding stuff that works. I got alphabet pasta so in some of the photos there are silhouettes of letters. I found these old dictionary pages that are thin enough that there's this translucence. You see the back and the front of the page. It's a jumble but if you look closely you can pick out words.

Q. How long have you known each other?

Williams. At least five years.

Varner. We met at a class in the art academy (of the Art League of Hilton Head). She had seen my stuff at Coligny Theatre (which projects photos before movies). I had seen her work at shows but never met her. I wanted to practice photographing people in their work place, and I asked Caroll if I could come to her studio. When I got there, she had all this stuff. And let me take some of her stuff. That lead to our first show.

Williams. That was before I had too much stuff. I always say, if anything happens to me just take a grenade and toss it in my studio. There's nothing that anyone would ever want.

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