June 1998 - Tribute to 'Mo' by Volcano artist

Mighty Mo as envisioned by Artist Dietrich Varez  (Hawaii Tribune-Herald, Sunday, June 21, 1998)

..... It not by name, surely by his works Dietrich Varez is familiar to most island residents.

..... His unique prints of life in old Hawaii  grace not only art collections, but the fronts of T-shirts, posters, and letterheads of a lot of local non-profit community organizations.

..... In a distinctive printmaking twist for Varez -- well-known for his body of 115 Hawaiiana prints -- he has branched out into the genre of marine art with a huge tribute to the "Mighty Mo."

..... The Big Island printmaker is no stranger to the world of battleships, cruisers and destroyers, but it's a new subject matter entirely for his fans and for the art part of his life.

..... By way of reminiscing and looking to the future, Varez has created a striking linoleum block print of the battleship USS Missouri, to be berthed at Pearl Harbor following today's huge welcoming in Honolulu.

..... "Interestingly enough, the material I use to cut my prints is called "battleship linoleum," he grinned.

..... The response to his new "Mighty Mo" print has been tremendous. "I can barely keep up with the orders and have run out of print paper once already," he said.

..... Creating the print brought back lots of fond memories.

..... "When we were kids we lived right on the water at the channel entrance to Pearl Harbor at Fort Kamehameha. All the ships that entered Pearl Harbor had to go right in front of our house," said  Varez. "If we went onto the old Fort Kamehameha pier we could almost touch them as they went by."

..... "My brother, Chris, and I used to collect matchbooks from all the famous ships such as the destroyers Fletcher and O'Bannon," he recalled.

..... "In those days, each ship had its own matchbook with its name and number pictured on the cover.

..... "When the ships came in, we'd scramble for our bicycles and make it through all the back roads that connected Fort Kamehameha, Hickam Airfield and Pearl Harbor.

..... "We could be at the ship's pier while it was still tying up. The sailors would always let us on board. Sometimes we even scored ice cream or goodies on board. Then we'd ask for those matchbooks to add to our collection.

..... "For someone who was in the Army, I've probably been aboard a lot of warships," says Varez, "even submarines and aircraft carriers. Pearl Harbor was our playground in those days ... in the early fifties."

..... In an era when fine arts and crafts have become big business, Varez remains an outstanding exception.

..... He arrived in Hawaii 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.

..... Shunning publicity and working in the simplest possible fashion with linoleum blocks, Varez continually shapes his strong personal expression of Hawaii. By nature a quiet and retiring man, he lives with his wife, Linda, a painter,  in a remote rainforest setting near Volcano Village.

..... Isolated by several miles of bad road, he is able to maintain the tranquility he desires for his work. Only in the last few years has he been persuaded to put in a telephone, say his friends at the Volcano Art Center, which carries his prints.

..... The Hawaii of old -- when spirits inhabited every tree and stone, and gods walked the earth -- in his inspiration. His work boldly traces the adventures and passions of a cast of mythical characters he has carefully researched in legend. He faithfully depicts Hawaiians practicing the arts, skills and values of old Hawaii.

..... "The Dietrich Varez catalog contains a wealth of knowledge and could be called 'Old Hawaii Illustrated,'" said a spokesperson for the popular non-profit gallery in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

..... For many years, Varez worked as a bartender and did his art only in his off-hours. Initially he carved bas-reliefs and gave them away to friends. "But," he said, "that got out of hand, so I carved a woodcut and found I could print lots of copies."

..... When the gallery first put his prints on sale for $2 each and sold several in the first month, his life as a full-time artist began.

..... The gallery -- situated in the historic, original Volcano House -- carries more than 100 of his prints and has sold hundreds of thousands of them in the last 20-plus years.


All images are the COPYRIGHTED PROPERTY of Dietrich Varez. No form of reproduction or manipulation, including copying or saving as a digital file is permitted. © Copyright Dietrich Varez | Website by The Magic Mo