Thursday, November 12, 2015


Canonization of St. Damien
St. Damien

One of my favorite Big Island artists (I did see some of his work in person) is DIETRICH VAREZ, who created the block prints of Sts. Damien and Marianne Cope of Molokai. His new work is a third “future saint” of Molokai, Brother Joseph Dutton. The civil war veteran and layman from Stowe, Vermont, served Kalauapa patients for the last 45 years of his life, from 1886 to 1931, primarily as a “dresser of sores.” According to Varez, his design includes the American and Hawaiian flags in tribute to Jospeh Dutton’s patriotism and a desk, pen and paper in recognition of his prolific letter writing. 
Brother Joseph Dutton

DIETRICH VAREZ, who was born in Berlin,  came to Hawai'i at age 8, when his mother married his stepfather Manuel Varez. After the war-torn Germany he'd known, it was love at first sight, and his romance with Hawaii still grows. He is said to be one of the Big Island's most beloved artists. He has an MA in English  from The University of Hawaii.
Shunning publicity and working in the simplest possible fashion with linoleum blocks or canvas, he continually shapes his strong personal expression of Hawai'i. By nature Varez is a quiet and retiring man, he lives with his wife Linda (also a noted painter) in a remote rain forest setting near Volcano Village on the Big Island.

Isolated by several miles of bad road, he is able to maintain the tranquility he desires for his work. The subject matter in most of Varez’s work is inspired by traditional Hawaiian legends, integrating mythological figures in scenes with flora and fauna typical of the diverse Hawaiian environment. His work is informed by graphic interpretations of traditional Polynesian designs, as seen, for instance, in Hawaiian quilts, and is especially rich in imagery from the Hawaiian rainforest. I especially love his birds.

Varez has published more than 225 wood- and linoleum-block prints.  Varez has stated that he actively avoids other art that might influence the unmediated nature of his vision. His recent graphic work has branched out to include more modern stories, notably that of Sts. Damien and Marianne of Molokai. His work is widely known through books that he has illustrated, and, in some cases, written.

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