Location: Gimli

Sculptor Warren Wenzel Chisels New Life Into Stone and Wood

Sculptor Warren Wenzel Chisels New Life Into Stone and Wood

"Goalie"

We left the immaculate Molgat Park campground at Sainte Rose du Lac, Manitoba heading (what we thought was) east to meet up with and interview sculptor Warren Wenzel in Gimli. We heard that it was a pretty drive heading through The Narrows, gliding over the only bridge to traverse the shimmering waters of Lake Manitoba. It’s really too bad then that I messed up on directions and took a more circuitous route; south to Portage la Prairie, then east to Winnipeg, and then finally north to Gimli. Sigh…maybe next time. After knocking on Warren’s door and phoning him with no answer we were getting a little worried that our longer than expected excursion here would all be for naught. But then he emerged from where we should have guessed he would be, his garage studio out back where the magic of his wood and stone sculptures come to life.

arts-quest-warren-wenzel

Warren has always been active in the arts in one way or another; his college courses leading him to dabble in cement and wood sculptures as well as abstract pieces in plexiglass. Working with wood though has always interested him, and so in 2000 when a home developer had left behind a landscape tie at a house he and his wife Denise were building, he decided to create his first chainsaw sculpture. His subject was a human sized dragon made up of 150 lbs of wood with fibreglass for the wings. It was certainly an ambitious endeavour for his first one and Warren notes that it was so big and heavy that he wound up gifting it to some friends rather than move it to Manitoba. The dragon is now resting comfortably in St. Albert, Alberta.

Wooden Bear

Wooden Bear

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Warren’s wife has made it a yearly tradition of giving him a different gift at Christmas that has something to do with art. So it wasn’t until Denise and her sister collaborated on some stone, hammers and chisels as his gift one year that his love for sculpting stone took off, and Warren has been carving it ever since for the past sixteen years. What he loves about working with the wood and stone is that once he has transformed the piece it is no longer just wood or stone, it has another identity that not only has a part of him in it, but also whatever the subject matter and the characteristics of who the piece is being designed for. Warren loves the creation process the most, taking away the chunks and then the fine bits to finally reveal what the piece of stone or wood was meant to be.

"Coyote Trickster"

“Coyote Trickster”

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Most of the time when Corinne asks an artist what their most difficult piece was, the response is usually associated with a technical aspect of the creation process. When she asked Warren though the question choked him up a bit. His wooden piece titled “Monk” was requested by his son. Warren initially thought of a portly shaped Buddha, but what his son had in mind was the likeness of a slender monk. As it got closer to completion his son said that the monk needed some prayer beads. Unfortunately his son passed away shortly before the piece was completed, and it wasn’t until Warren found the prayer beads amongst his son’s things that he then draped them in the monk’s hands, completing the piece. The “Monk”, sitting in tranquil meditation, exudes a serenity and spirituality to those that see him in Warren’s art tours. They also see the monk’s wooden “scars” where the wood did not lend itself to a perfect human form, and to Warren these are symbolic of the flaws and vulnerabilities of humanity.

"Monk" - wood

“Monk”

Most of Warren’s work is done by commission from his corporate sponsor, where they will give him a list of retiring members and then he will endeavour to create a unique retirement gift for them. He will find out details about the member, pick an appropriate stone to use, and design a sculpture that would best reflect the personality and characteristics of that person.

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A project that he hopes to include in his portfolio one day is a monumental piece. An idea he has is for the town of Stonewall, Manitoba which is known for its limestone quarries. He wants to use a large chunk of limestone from Stonewall to create a 6 1/2 foot hockey goalie and place it in front of their town arena. Anyone who is familiar with hockey knows that a “stonewall” is another term for a goalie (Warren is one himself). What could be a more fitting monument to the town of Stonewall and its limestone legacy than to have an enduring piece, a goalie in limestone, sculpted by a goalie?

Enjoy our interview with Warren and don’t be shy about sharing his story and work on social media and email. We also appreciate comments.