Willy Verginer was raised in the Val Gardena region in Italy, surrounded by the summits, forests and the Dolomite Mountains which became an important influence in his work. As a teenager, he began his fine arts education in painting and studied at the Institute of Secondary Art Education in Ortisei in Italy. However, his gravitation toward woodwork and sculpture would lead him to seek training in the latter discipline. While in school, he enhanced his education by frequenting the studios of many sculptors in Val Gardena, renowned for its woodworking traditions since the eighteenth century. Although he successfully assimilated the artisanal and ancestral traditions of polychrome sculpture and integrated the traditional vocabulary of the profession, his ambitions proved to be more vast, universal and contemporary.
The technical processes adopted by Willy Verginer offer insights into his approach, which is at once figurative and conceptual. His sculptures are composed of several blocks of wood, which are dried naturally over six years to avoid morphing. He conceives, from these large masses, the forms of his sculptures with the help of a chainsaw and a hatchet before refining his work with chisels and small tools to work the eyelids or the earlobes of his figures. Despite their hyperrealist modeling, the resulting figures are devoid of facial expression; with their fixed gaze and apparent detachment, they are party to the mystery of representation, and establishing, especially in recent works, a compelling rapport with the absurd.
His series Human Nature, which bears the mark of environmentalist discourse, offers compositions that depict the industrial impacts on living things and their habitats. In this vein, Willy Verginer juxtaposes oil drums, wild animals and clear-cut forests in his sculptures. By reducing the theme of the forest to a single tree, he bears witness to the fragility of ecosystems and urges the viewer to protect them from the noxious effects of polluting industries. The grey or metallic sheen of the barrels spread across different elements of the sculptural compositions: an act of aggression representing pollution and the degradation of humanity. By employing the fragility and beauty of nature in an ironic and humoristic manner, Willy Verginer forces us to question the impacts of our daily actions.
Willy Verginer’s work has been featured in numerous solo and group exhibitions across Europe, notably at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Lissone and at the Cavalese Contemporary Art Center in Trentino, both in Italy. His works are also found in many private collections in Europe, the United States, and Canada.