Letters

Letters 08-03-2015

Real Brownfields Deserve Dollars I read with interest the story on Brownfield development dollars in the July 20 issue. I applaud Dan Lathrop and other county commissioners who voted “No” on the Randolph Street project...

Hopping Mad Carlin Smith is hopping mad (“Will You Get Mad With Me?” 7-20-15). Somebody filed a fraudulent return using his identity, and he’s not alone. The AP estimates the government “pays more than $5 billion annually in fraudulent tax refunds.” Well, many of us have been hopping mad for years. This is because the number one tool Congress has used to fix this problem has been to cut the IRS budget –by $1.2 billion in the last 5 years...

Just Grumbling, No Solutions Mark Pontoni’s grumblings [recent Northern Express column] tell us much about him and virtually nothing about those he chooses to denigrate. We do learn that Pontoni may be the perfect political candidate. He’s arrogant, opinionated and obviously dimwitted...

A Racist Symbol I have to respond to Gordon Lee Dean’s letter claiming that the confederate battle flag is just a symbol of southern heritage and should not be banned from state displays. The heritage it represents was the treasonous effort to continue slavery by seceding from a democratic nation unwilling to maintain such a consummate evil...

Not So Thanks I would like to thank the individual who ran into and knocked over my Triumph motorcycle while it was parked at Lowe’s in TC on Friday the 24th. The $3,000 worth of damage was greatly appreciated. The big dent in the gas tank under the completely destroyed chrome badge was an especially nice touch...

Home · Articles · News · Art · Todd Warner's Zoo Charlevoix...
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Todd Warner's Zoo Charlevoix sculptor loves animals & 'sophisticated whimsey'

Al Parker - August 29th, 2011
Todd Warner’s Zoo: Charlevoix sculptor loves animals & ‘sophisticated whimsey’
By Al Parker
In his downtown Charlevoix studio, sculptor Todd Warner puts flame to his first Dominican Excalibur cigar of the day, exhales a plume of fragrant smoke and recalls his early artistic efforts.
“I was always drawing stuff,” he says with a chuckle. “From the time I could pick up a pencil. My kindergarten teacher said ‘We need to foster this.’”
Decades later, Warner’s clay-and-wood works include life-size cowboys, Indians, butlers and fishermen. He has a special affinity for animals and crafts unique beasts from armadillos to zebras.
“I’ve always loved animals,” says Warner, who grew up in Farwell, near Clare. “And I really like the more interesting animals – wart hogs, rhinos – not the sleek one. I spent some time in Africa and really want to go back.”
Described as ‘sophisticated whimsy,’ his works can be found in lobbies, living rooms, zoos, museums, offices and airports across the nation. His creations are cornerstones of collections at the corporate headquarters of USA Today, McDonald’s, Gannett Publishing and Detroit Tigers and Little Caesar’s owner Mike Illitch.
Celebrities who own at least one of Warner’s works include Randy Travis, David Copperfield, Kelly McGillis, Charlie Gibson and Zsa Zsa Gabor.

‘THEY HAVE PERSONALITIES’
As a boy, he learned to move silently through the woods. “I learned to walk quietly up to chipmunks and deer or they would come close to me,” explains Warner. “There was a communication both ways. I don’t believe animals operate purely on instinct. They have personalities – it’s just whether you can crack the code.”
Warner studied art at Central Michigan University and began sculpting professionally in 1967. Though it was 44 years ago, Warner still remembers his first sale. “It was a small rhinoceros,” he recalls. “A doctor bought it. I tried to buy it back several times, but he wouldn’t part with it.”
From 1968 to ‘72 he taught art in a number of schools and ‘absolutely loved it.’ Along the way there was also a stint as a construction worker. Eventually Warner had to make a choice to follow his passion for producing fine art or continuing a career in education.
Choosing the life of an artist, he moved to south Florida in 1982. It was there that his signature sculptures of flat, elongated figures, with their exaggerated personalities, were born. “I love working with clay,” he explains. “I’m not really a chip-at-marble sort of guy.”
But he’s not restricted to only sculpture, as the colorful paintings that line his studio walls will attest. They capture the light humor so prevalent in almost all of Warner’s works.

SUBTLE HUMOR
On a recent sunny summer morning a small cluster of teens strolls through his Bridge Street studio, pointing at his colorful works, smiling and giggling quietly.
“I think the humor appeals to people,” says Warner. “It’s not slapstick. It’s subtle. But the humor’s not a conscious thing. I don’t try to make them funny, that’s just the way they turn out. The works take on a frame of mind I have when working on them. It comes from deep inside me. The world has gotten too damn serious and we can use some comic relief.”
Warner’s sculptures are composed of three elements to look like a single substance. The head is sculpted in clay, the flat skinny body is wood and the legs are usually steel. Sculpted epoxy resin then covers it completely. Hand painting then brings out the fanciful personality of the creature.
To learn more about these creations, go to www.toddwarnerstudios.com .
And whose works does Warner admire?
“Just about anybody with innovative thoughts,” he notes. “I get inspiration from people like that. It keeps the fire going. “
Among his favorite artists are Sante Fe watercolorist Fran Larson, sculptor Ted Gall of Ojai, Ca. and sculptor Bob Black. “They’re all producing very high quality work, are extremely creative and innovative.”
After 20 years in Florida, Warner returned to Northern Michigan. He has a small farm in Norwood, south of Charlevoix, where his working studio is located. He’s surrounded there by his menagerie of horses, mules, dogs, cats, birds and other critters. “I love the four seasons in the Midwest,” he says. “And I love the people.”
“It’s been a really good life. Few people get to do what they really want to do. I’ve been real fortunate and it’s been a lot of hard work. I’ve seen some incredibly talented people who weren’t as lucky as me. I was very fortunate and still am.”
 
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