Recently, I had the pleasure to interview Dari Walker. Dari sculpts beautiful vivacious women in their full form. Her work… her art has helped give the fuller woman and society a positive image of beauty. What follows is that interview.
How long have you been a artist?
Dari Walker: I come from an artistic family; my mother and sister are oil painters and my aunt was a movie actress and my grandmother, a sister. My love for sculpture began with an earlier fascination for mud pies, one of my most vivid childhood memories. I rediscovered sculpting at age 12 with ceramics and masks in a class at my school. When I was 19 I spent a semester in France which ignited my senses, all the sculpted wooden doors and fountains and beautiful architecture.
When I returned home I took a semester off from college and did nothing but sculpt. I made over two hundred terra cotta masks. But It wasn’t until a few years out of the masters program that I began my career as a professional sculptress. I had taken a class for fun at a wonderful junior college, Saddleback in Southern California, and took a class in bronze sculpture where we cast our own pieces. I was hooked. My mother, also an artist, told a gallery owner about my work and my pieces were in the gallery a couple of months later. There’s been no turning back.
What mediums do you work from?
Dari Walker: I work primarily in artists wax called microcrystalline, and now I also love terracotta and oil based clay.
What is the favorite medium and why?
Dari Walker: Wax for the creativity and sensuality. The warmth, the softness. I also love clay terra cotta, anything soft and pliable and. It s a very fun, sensual experience sculpting with supple materials.
When do you start sculpting?
Dari Walker: I love to sculpt in the early morning and late at night, when stillness prevails and creative energy is its most potent.
Dari Walker: I feel like it chose me. A passion emerged and I was carried along on a runaway train. Maybe because my sister and mother were painters and this was something my very own, no competition, or maybe it is because I am very tactile, touchy feely person. I also do watercolors. But nothing is quite as satisfying to me as sculpting. It is wonderfully exciting to be able to put into form feelings and ideas. It is a very fulfilling and gratifying experience
Who is Isabella?
Dari Walker: Isabella is a name that I love. Also a play on words. “Bella”, the Italian word for beautiful, means “Is a beauty”. Also, my sister bought a house in Lake Isabella at the time Isabella was created. The rest are named for my sister who has two middle names and my friends.
Why plus-size images?
Dari Walker: They emerged naturally as an expression of the exuberant plus size women I grew up with, my mother and sister. I have a love for the body and full round shapes. It was natural as an artist, to capture in form these indelible impressions of these lively women. I strongly believe that the body is beautiful in all it shapes.
Are you a plus-size woman?
Dari Walker: I am now.
Who buys your work?
Dari Walker: They are very popular as gifts, husbands for wives, girlfriends for boyfriends, and women who want a positive image of themselves. One woman told me recently that the Carina statue got her through a difficult time after she had a mastectomy. Many people have expressed their appreciation for the statues as a positive reminder of their beauty.
What was your inspiration?
Dari Walker: The possibility of portraying real images and making a statement.
How long does it take you to complete a piece?
Dari Walker: Years and over a hundred hours. It is a long process. I don’t force a piece, I let it develop. It has a life of its own, its own personality that I try not to impose myself upon.
Can you describe the process you go through when creating a piece from start to finish?
Dari Walker: I start with the warm wax and let my imagination go wild. When a sculpture takes form and I see more clearly what it will be, then I use photos and models to refine the statue. Next comes the painstaking process of details and finishing. This is the longest part. Then a mold is made by the mold maker. From this mold is cast a piece on which I will do the final finishing The mold maker makes a second mold from this statue.
Is being an artist a full-time career for you?
Dari Walker: I am a full time artist and have been for the past 10 years.
Do you work from live models?
Dari Walker: Yes, and photographs also. I use my mother and my sister as well as friends.
What has been the biggest challenge in the work you create?
Dari Walker: Getting acceptance for these statues in mainstream society. Even though there seems to be increasingly greater receptivity, there is a still a long way to go for size acceptance. An exception was the advertising campaign of The Body Shop several years ago, for which I was a finalist.
What do you want to be remembered for?
Dari Walker: For making a bold statement and depicting the truth which is generally denied in our culture. The truth being that plus size women are beautiful and sexy creatures.
How would you describe yourself?
Dari Walker: I am a passionate person with diverse interests such as cooking languages, and music as well as all the arts.
What do you hope people think of when they view your work?
Dari Walker: Beauty and delight.
Are you involved in any special groups?
Dari Walker: Yes, NAAFA, the national association of fat acceptance to which I donate statues and jewelry regularly Also the Fat Women’s Group of London which had an exhibit with all the pieces. I also donate statues and jewelry to various Plus size parties and events across the country.
Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about?
Dari the artist:
Dari Walker: There are new statues in bronze available this year and more coming in the next few months. I also do commissions and enlarged versions. I am working on another exciting series of 10 statues of women of power that will done in a couple of years. I will post a link to them from my website as soon as they are done.
Dari the woman:
Dari Walker: I am very satisfied with my life as an artist. It is a deeply fulfilling experience and I am so grateful.
* Visit Dari Walker’s official website for Isabella and Friends
Originally published 7/9/2004 at Large & Lovely, BellaOnline.