Hitting the mark: Artist uses arrows, antlers in her work
Artist uses arrows, antlers to create sculpture, prints and more
Vallerie Kunz had an art epiphany while working in the archery department at Cabela’s.
The 24-year-old Grand Junction woman was cutting arrows to customer specifications several years ago when she realized the arrow shaft remnants destined for the trash would be fantastic sculpture material.
She had no idea how to use them or what to sculpt. She just wanted to try.
Working with arrows, printmaking with antlers and skulls and drawing wildlife are just a few ways Kunz has taken her lifelong love of the outdoors — particularly archery — and melded it into art.
The use of hunting materials or animal parts, which can be seen as more masculine, to produce artwork such as floral prints, which seem more feminine, is Kunz’s primary aesthetic, she said.
“With all of these materials I focus on contrast, simplicity, repetition, detail and texture,” Kunz wrote for her bio at valleriekunz.com. “I find myself in a struggle to be strong, yet humble, feminine and delicate.”
Although Kunz has been an artist and archer most of her life — she’s an accomplished and accurate shot, said Kenny Marcella, her shooting and hunting partner — it wasn’t until Kunz became an art student at Colorado Mesa University that she began to explore the use of unconventional materials in traditional ways.
While pursuing her bachelor in fine arts degree, Kunz pressed antler bases into clay, formed deer skulls into a circular pattern that resembled a flower for photographs and prints and discovered how to take arrow remnants and use them to create life-size animal sculptures.
“It took about two semesters to figure out how to use the arrows to sculpt,” said Kunz, who graduated from CMU in 2015 and Fruita Monument High School in 2009.
Kunz started the process of collecting arrows and connecting them with wire to build a deer in 2013, but “it was taking too long,” she said.
Kunz abandoned the wire and tried glue, settling on an epoxy resin to keep the arrows together. Then she had to figure out how to strengthen the sculpture after it broke. Kunz learned she needed metal support around the arrows.
By fall 2014, Kunz figured out how best to sculpt the arrows, fit them into a metal exterior and attach that sculpture to a larger base. Kunz completed a fox and deer just in time for her senior show in April 2015.
“Throughout this whole time I was collecting enough arrows to fill it,” said Kunz, who has since forged relationships with several archery shops in the region as well as Red Rock Archery for better access to broken arrows or arrow remnants.
The trial and error process that Kunz went through to complete her sculptures, easily her largest and most elaborate works, are indicative of what she loves about both archery and art.
“There are similarities in hunting, archery and my artwork; all of them take great patience, focus, practice and perseverance,” Kunz wrote. “These ventures are satisfying even if I miss the mark. Hunting is not always about the harvest. Archery is not always about hitting the mark. My artwork is not always about making exactly what I first intended. In each, I can enjoy the adventure of discovering what I never thought I would be capable of doing.”
Now, the fox and deer are for sale and can be seen at Kunz’s website, along with the rest of her work. The sculptures are being stored in the former Around the Corner Art Gallery in Montrose but can be seen through the windows.
“She needs to have them on display,” Marcella said. “They are awesome. I told her, ‘You need to show those things someplace.’ “
Kunz would like to sell more pieces and even has some commissions in the works — she’s currently painting a landscape on a two-person saw — but she also is employed part-time at Cabela’s and it takes time collecting many of the materials she works with.
One of those who has commissioned art from Kunz is Mike Brown, her former coworker at Cabela’s. He happened to see her drawing at the archery counter one day and was taken aback at her talent. Brown asked her to take a set of mule deer antlers he found and draw an animal.
Kunz obliged, and the pencil drawing is hung in his house next to the antlers.
Kunz would like to enter a Cabela’s employee art show later this year, is working on a bear and turkey sculpture and looking for her own studio space.