Inter-woven: The multifaceted disciplines of Kristina Varjan
Kristina Varjan considers herself a “movement artist,” which seems like a uniquely fitting moniker for someone engaged in dance, martial arts, and master basket-making. From early childhood, the New York City-born Varjan was drawn to a number of dance practices. Later in life, her deep affinity for physical expression manifested in an abiding love for Aikido, a Japanese martial arts practice she describes as “moving Zen” and continues to study and teach today. In many ways, Varjan’s exquisitely crafted, meticulously woven baskets are a natural segue from physical to visual expression.
Varjan’s signature basket-making style employs natural pine needles, along with strung beads, colored thread, and, perhaps most intriguingly, smooth stones, fossils, slivered agate, and other dazzling accoutrements, embedded into the ground or base of each basket. Works are gestural and ultimately enigmatic, open to any number of interpretations on behalf of the viewer. Knowing about Varjan’s longstanding interest in Aikido only strengthens the connection between two different but equally disciplined practices: the densely coiled, dynamically arranged baskets take on an almost alchemical quality, what with their earthy but dazzling embellishments. These meticulously composed artworks exist harmoniously with the inherent rigor and ultimate grace of a martial arts practice.
Contemporary basket-making has fascinating historical precedents, with the oldest known examples dating back to between 10,000 and 12,000 years. Varjan’s baskets, so fastidiously crafted and elegantly formed, occur as a tribute to the rich, ancient history of woven fiber crafts—yet simultaneously invoke an entirely new sensibility, one whose wholly unique characteristics defy easy description or categorization. Just as Varjan calls Aikido “moving Zen,” so too could her artistic practice be described, articulated in baskets of elegant, uncomplicated beauty.