Meet the Restaurateur-Turned-Artist Who Collected Stone in Michelangelo’s Quarry
Gildea Contemporary Gallery will host the exclusive premiere of new works by local sculptor Sally Wernicoff in a show titled Visions in Stone, opening Thursday, March 30th at the gallery at 522 Southard St. The artist will appear in person to tell the story of her latest creations from 7-10pm that evening.
After showing an early childhood interest in fashion, design, and sewing, Sally Wernicoff was invited to teach adult cooking classes after high school. Eventually, she opened and successfully ran a French country restaurant in Atlantic City as the chef and owner for 3 years. When Sally and her husband first visited Key West in 1983, they were both immediately taken with the place and purchased a home here 10 days later. Neither Sally nor Tevis was able to truly “retire,” so they both re-started with creative careers in the Keys. Sally took up sculpture at Florida Keys Community College and her husband pursued lighting design.
“It was during one of my pottery classes that the instructor mentioned an opportunity to study in Italy and work with stone. I nearly fell off my chair at the mention of the word ‘stone,” she says. As part of the artist’s overseas studies, Sally spent the summers of 2006 and 2007 quarrying stone and sculpting in Pietrasanta, Italy, the same location where Michelangelo and other famous sculptors gathered their materials. “They just let us wander around in this place, saying we could take anything we could carry. I was absolutely blown away. I feel like inside each rock is a secret waiting to be discovered.”
The artist tell us, “I don’t create these sculptures so much as I set them free,” a view of sculpting that echoes of many of the great stone artists of the past, all of whom believed that their work was to find the art already inside of the rock. Seeing these new pieces in person, one is immediately taken with the softness and femininity of the curved surfaces. It’s hard to believe that such gentleness could come from hard, rough stone. Selecting each stone as she does by hand, gives an extraordinary one-of-a-kind feeling to these pieces. Wernicoff’s eye for color and texture is finely developed and she’s able to pull a lovely variety of tones and textures from inside the rock itself.
Beginning, as she says, “With a VHS tape about sculpting,” (today known as the University of YouTube), Sally was privileged to eventually study with master sculptor Gerald Lynch. “He taught me many unique carving methods,” the artist reveals. Sally’s work is highly sought after in Key West as unique pieces of home or garden decor. Being made of natural materials, they work equally well inside and out. In addition to her works in stone, Sally will also be displaying several one-of-a-kind sculptures in metal and in clay.
Gildea Contemporary Gallery is proud to be the exclusive home of Sally Wernicoff’s work. The gallery is known as Key West’s destination for abstract and contemporary art and offers many “concierge level” services to its buyers, including free in-home previews and delivery service. Gildea Contemporary Gallery is located at 522 Southard St in Old Town Key West and is open daily from 10:30am to 4:30pm.