Artist, cancer survivor Annie Varnot uses eggs as metaphor for life and death in new Wave Hill exhibit

*As published in New York Daily News, June 2012*

Artist Annie Varnot’s installation now at Wave Hill–smooth, white sculptures made from hollowed-out chicken eggs and plaster–serves as a metaphor for how she felt when faced with cancer.

“I needed to make the work in order to process the trauma,” Varnot, 40, of Brooklyn, said.

She started collecting the hundreds of eggs in her installation in 2007, the year she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Part of the installation, titled “W/hole,” includes a projection of moving hands on an ostrich egg and a video of the hollowing process. She ultimately wants to create a hut with the empty eggs that she can fit inside. She has 1,000 eggs and said she needs about 13,000 for the hut.

“[THE HUT] would also function as a metaphor for myself, the fragility that I felt, this nervousness that, when you’re confronted with death,” she paused, as her blue eyes became teary.

“It’s like you freeze, or I did. I froze. You feel so incredibly fragile and yet solid. I felt like the egg was an incredibly wonderful metaphor for how I was experiencing that trauma,” said Varnot, who survived the battle with the disease and looks the picture of health.

In the same year she was diagnosed, Varnot was honored with a fellowship at the Ross Creek Centre for the Arts in Nova Scotia. She knew she wanted to work with eggs and met a poultry farmer nearby. He donated the unsellable eggs, which were either misshaped or stained.

She poked a hole in the eggs with a tack and pushed in air with a large syringe.

“I became fascinated with the barrier of the egg. I wanted to penetrate it, like doctors performing a procedure on me,” she said. “The draining of the eggs was for me my way of getting inside my own body.”

Varnot’s “W/hole” is very personal, but she wants it to translate to others in different ways.

“I want the art work to speak louder than my personal experience,” she said. “I wanted it to be poetic and have this poetic suggestion of life and death while also referencing the here and now.”

“W/hole” will be at Wave Hill’s Sunroom Project Space until July 1.

Varnot is currently collaborating to make a 20-foot god’s eye for the Artscape 2012 Baltimore arts festival.

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