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Thai Varick

June 18, 2011

Maisy's Treasure by Herbert Freeman

Maisy May Marrs is an Orlando artist who recently sold some of her work at the City Arts Factory downtown.  She reports that after she left the gallery she ran into Herbert Freeman and admired the piece above.  Mr. Freeman had promised it to a woman named Evon, but he said she was very drunk and he did not believe she was coming back to collect it.  Maisy offered to buy the piece with proceeds she had just earned from selling her own work.  Mr. Freeman agreed and crossed out the dedication to Evon he had written on the back and wrote in her name.  He also wrote in the word Project so she could find this blog.

As far as I know Mr. Freeman has only seen this blog once when I showed it to him about a year ago.  He was only vaguely aware of it before then.  He was very pleased.

back side

Thai Varick - New York City homeless artist

A few months back I discovered Donald Blank’s 1994 short documentary of Thai Varick (1941-2001).  Varick was a incredibly talented sculptor who used wire as his medium.  I have searched the web for months trying to find photographs of his work but these  pictures are all that I can find.

17 Comments leave one →
  1. fotojosie permalink
    April 22, 2012 9:03 am

    I have a Thai original but it’s in storage in Austria. I couldn’t afford to bring back everything I shipped over there back when I moved was coming home. I love that horse. Thai told me that it had two wires and was unique because he always only used one. He said, you will never find where one starts and ends. He was right I stared at it for many many hours looking for where he brought the second wire in and I could never find it.

  2. July 30, 2012 3:06 pm

    I also have an original Thai Varick horse that I purchased in a bar on the upper west side called the “Insomnia Lounge” some time between 1992 and 1994. He was sitting at the end of the bar most of the night toiling away on it. I fell in love with it that night and bought it for fifty bucks, a lot of money back then! He scribbled a “birth certificate” for it on the back of a phone memo paper from the bar. anyway, I will try and post a picture of it if I can…..

    • Mike permalink
      April 13, 2014 3:49 pm

      I met Thai at a street festival on the upper west side back in ’93. Our conversation lasted about 20 minutes and ended with my buying one of his Horse sculptures for twenty-bucks (all I had on me). He told me about his “beating heart signature” hidden within the horse’s chest. Such an artist.

  3. Jerry Murphy permalink
    September 11, 2012 11:15 am

    I knew Thai in the late 80’s when he created for me a camel and 2 astrological symbols, one Aquarius in which the sculpture ends with the wire coming out of a jug and another Pisces consisting of 2 fish connected together at the nose from one piece of wire, amazing and authentic…I was there when he made them. Since our relationship was personal as friends and made at my request nobody else has anything like them. Jerry Murphy

  4. December 23, 2012 9:54 pm

    I have a ‘Thai’ bull original on my shelf. I can photograph it if you wish, but it is very similar to the one pictured above. I used to pass by his ‘spot’ near Zabars frequently. One day I stopped to ask him why several of the sculptures around him had one unfinished leg. He said that it prevented people from stealing them while he slept. He said he’d finish my bull while I went to McDonalds to bring him some dinner… such an artist…

  5. February 21, 2013 2:09 pm

    Sorry, even though Thai was at ease with his wire………..his work can not even hold a candle to the work of Columbus “Dude” McGriff………who worked in wire from the time he was a 9 until his death at he age of 60 or so. He was almost blind in one eye and had a glass eye in the other socket, having poked his eye out with wire at a early age. Easily the best of the outside artist who used wire as their primary material of choice.

  6. Debi permalink
    May 28, 2014 9:26 pm

    Thai sculpted me. It is very accurate. He also gave me a heart. It was very interesting sitting still for him to do it. I miss him. He was a great person.

  7. August 13, 2015 12:16 am

    I was walking and Thai had the horse in his hands and I said, “is it for sale” and he says, “yes” and we agreed on twenty dollars-mine it actually a unicorn, not sure if he made many of them as opposed to the plain horse. I always thought it was a masterpiece and watching him create his sculptures in the video really helped me to see how intuitive his creative process was. These aren’t just static pieces but skillfully crafted to give the impression of movement!

  8. November 12, 2015 2:11 pm

    I have a couple of Thai’s pieces. A bull (The stock ,market was booming), and a winged horse. worked on the Upper West Side, and would see him almost daily at times, and then not see him for weeks.
    He was truly gifted, was able to sculpt out a piece in under a half hour while having a coherent conversation with someone, all the while being under the “influence”.
    What a shame, what a character, what a man.

  9. November 12, 2015 11:42 pm

    Glad to hear more comments about Thai and his sculptures. Mine is still sitting on the mantle. I wrote a note with his name on it and tucked it into the bull’s belly, next to his heart, so I will never forget. Would love to have one of his horses to go with the bull, if any of you are selling…

    • Judy permalink
      December 8, 2015 7:50 pm

      I knew Thai quite well. He would pawn his pieces with me, Ha! Once he sat outside of a Harlem church all night to finish a replica of tge church for the pastor’s anniversary. I have three of his pieces
      He was also represented by a gallery in New York for a time. Thanks for the memories.

    • Judy permalink
      December 8, 2015 7:52 pm

      I do have a horse or two. I may be interested in selling one of them. One is a rare lighter silver.

      • December 13, 2015 12:55 pm

        That’s interesting Judy, would have loved to see his sculpture of the church.

        If you are interested in parting with anything, let me know, I’d be happy to consider it.

      • Sam permalink
        December 26, 2015 5:53 pm

        Would love to see the horses! Always interested in adding another piece of his work to my collection. The silver one sounds cool!

  10. December 13, 2015 11:21 pm

    First, I want to say I’m delighted this page exists. Second, I’m delighted to see there’s an active market for Thai’s work.

    I knew Thai quite well when I lived on the Upper West Side some 20-odd years ago. I saw him regularly and on occasion took him to lunch at an Italian place he liked on Amsterdam called Baci. During one lunch he quickly twisted some wire between courses and at the end of the meal handed me an elegant Porpoise.

    Over a few years I bought a number of his pieces, which I gave away as gifts. I kept what I believe was the first bull he made—complete with the birth certificate Thai would write on a yellow page he tore from a beaten yellow legal pad.

    He made a lot of horses because he knew he could sell them, so I never bought one. Today, I have the bull, a Centaur with the man half firing an arrow. (He called it Sagittarius.) The prize of my collection, however, is a man and a woman/Adam & Eve, he made for me when I got married. No, it wasn’t a gift; I think I gave him $100 for the happy couple.

  11. July 24, 2016 7:23 pm

    How great to run into this post today. Thai and I were good friends and he would often visit me in my brownstone apartment on Manhattan Avenue. We had quite a few artist friends in that area those days. Thai would almost always arrive in the neighborhood with this old 12-speed bike equipped with baskets for carrying just about all needed to be a mobile art studio. There were always heavy gauge spools of wire in it and this guy could twist out a piece in mere minutes.

    Thai and I once sat in my living room and talk for awhile. He made a horse sculpture as we got into things one day and at the end he just handed it to me. I’m happy to take a couple photos of custom pieces that he made if anyone would like to see them. He made many pieces for friends of mine that he would sometimes make for the first time. Thai once made me an elephant for a girl I liked when I was in my 20s. So long ago!

    Thai was a great man. He was a great and powerful artist. As I look at this post and take at the pieces of his I own, I’m reminded of his signature which was a “heart”. The heart symbol was the start of each piece and it was his essential message. Love and reminding folks that it all starts there. Which now reminds me after many years just how much I miss Thai’s laugh. My eyes get a bit watery just thinking about it. If you were lucky enough to know him you’ll know what I mean.

    Thank you for honoring Thai. I’m so glad I came across this post today and can pay tribute to a good friend.

    • STEVE TRUZZOLINO permalink
      July 30, 2018 2:29 pm

      I met Thai in the mid 90’s, when working on Columbus Ave. He would be sitting on the sidewalk bending wire. They only tool he used was a small short piece of round metal. About the size of 16 penny nail. He would work the wire back and forth. Turning and twisting the wire and before you knew it, bam! There was a penguin, a horse, an eagle, a dinosaur. All made from one piece of wire and all had his signature heart in the middle of the body.
      My favorite piece is the machine, backhoe, that I ran while working on Columbus Ave.
      A very talented gentleman.

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