Spring is in the air and Riverside is bustling in the warmer weather, getting ready for festival season. Many arts and cultural events are in the planning stages, such as the Riverside Art Museums Riverside Art Market on April 1st and the City of Riverside, and UCR Entomology Departments Riverside Insect Fair on Earth Day, April 22nd. Although Riverside Artswalk is a monthly event, the warmer weather encourages more participation, more artist vendors, and more attendees to the downtown area. March Artswalk marks the start of the busy season, and all of the galleries and museums are prepared with new and exciting exhibitions, such as Division 9 Gallery’s 50 on the 9. The group show exhibits ten 8 x 8 artworks designed by each of the participating artists – artists including Gil Arreola, Chris Bautista, Jim Behrman, Cosme Cordova, Pablo Damas, Rachael Dzikonski, Denise Kraemer, C. Matthew Luther, Carlos Puma, Viviana Reyes, and last but not least, Debra Varvi - this month’s artist spotlight.
Debra Varvi is a multi-disciplinary artist, working in henna, color pencil, ink, acrylic, dry point etching, and watercolor. She was born in Texas but has lived all over the US and Europe. She arrived in California in 1980, settling in Riverside. Debra regularly takes printmaking classes with Denise Kramer at Division 9 Gallery where she has shown her work in 2 solo shows and various group shows. Recent exhibitions include This Might be Edible Stuff and the current exhibition 50 on the 9. Debra also has her artwork on display at Gramercy Art Gallery, the Corona Arts Colony and is a member of the Riverside Community Arts Association, the Riverside Art Museum, and the Riverside Art Alliance. As a professional henna artist, Debra has immersed herself in the various regional styles and cultures that celebrate with this ancient art form. Her curiosity has led her to workshops and classes throughout the US and to Marrakech and also led her to teaching her own classes in her artistic style of henna, both nationally and internationally.
Debra is inspired by nearly everything she sees and experiences - especially henna, which she has been doing professionally since 1999. All the visual information she takes in has come to inform her work, and she also has sketchbooks devoted to urban sketching, eyes, figures, Jacobean florals, henna designs, etc. Her most recent explorations are the juxtaposition of life and death, the role of organized religion in this balance, the contrast in the way other cultures deal with death compared to how Americans deal or don’t deal with it. She is also interested in whimsy and the darker side of things. She tries to create everyday and at any given moment she may have two or three projects she is working on.
“The object isn’t to make art, it’s to be in that wonderful state which makes art inevitable.” by Robert Henri is a quote that resonates with Debra. She feels that creating art is when she feels like herself and a sense of belonging. Some of her earliest memories are of drawing or coloring – activities that her parents encouraged, and they always supported her artistic endeavors, no matter how strange or unusual. Debra feels fortunate to have settled in Riverside due to her experiences, from art education through to the start of her henna business at the old Wednesday Night Market. Now she loves and appreciates Riverside Artswalk and how people are shocked to find that you can be a working artist. She believes the event is a great thing for the community and is excited that the vendor area moved to Main Street. She feels lucky that our community has an Artswalk, loves the energy that that it brings and is thrilled to find that the Riverside arts scene is growing by leaps and bounds!