Sophia Vari’s massive sculptures Le Roi and Le Reine tower over me, flanking the entrance to Art of the World Gallery. The black and red of the sculptures intertwine with a fluidity that defies the set nature of metal.
Yet this liveliness is something Vari instills in all her art, viewing her creations as lifeforms that are ever-changing—moving and breathing along with the viewer. She intends for her work to play off its surroundings, using features like lighting to inform the art itself. There is an intentional push-pull between the art and the space it occupies.
As a globally-renowned artist, Vari has had more than 100 solo exhibitions across the world, as well as work featured at two Olympics. Sharing a love for art with her husband Fernando Botero, the famed Colombian artist, she draws inspiration from the geometric style of cubists like Picasso, the surrealism of Dalí, the black and white series of Matisse, and her homeland of Greece. Many of Vari’s marble pieces are made out of stone from the Greek island of Thasos—a rare material special in and of itself, but also a taste of home.
At Art of the World, Tango sits in the middle of the gallery, inviting the viewer with its elegant design. The juxtaposition between black and white draws the eye, but observers quickly notice how the sculpture suggests a couple interlocking bodies as they dance. The small, circular indentations depict eyes while the semi-circle attachments depict ears; throughout the gallery, Vari incorporates these features to make her sculptures appear human.
This balance between recognizable forms and abstraction creates a mystery that excites admirers of Vari’s work. Consider how she experiments with bronze, silver, and marble sculptures, with each finish providing its own personality. Presénce Nue Du Soleil, a bronze sculpture, shines with a rare opulence so that viewers see their reflection in the shiny material, animating the sculpture with their own movement.
In addition to sculpture, Vari uses watercolor on canvas and epoxy, and also designs jewelry. Her watercolor Ce Vent Qui Respire plays with light, shadowing, and layering to depict geometric shapes floating in space, playfully scattering them across the canvas while using the muted tone of watercolor for softness and warmth. Then there is her jewelry, such as Amazones-Bracelet, which looks like interwoven ribbons of silver prepared to morph into another shape. These statement pieces are smaller versions of her sculptures, adorning the human form that transports her art into new venues.
Looking around, you see how Vari has maintained the same style for many decades, while also expanding her style to new mediums. Because of her versatility and experience, Vari brings her art to life so that viewers can marvel at the unknown but also discover a bit of themselves in every piece.
Thru Jan. 6. Art of the World Gallery, 2201 Westheimer Rd. 713-526-1201. More info at artoftheworldgallery.com.