From his Charlevoix, Michigan studio, Warner brings clay to life. A heartfelt smile from on-lookers and collectors is his measure of success. “There’s an innate sense of humor in my work, but I’m not going for the belly laugh. I love to make people smile. I couldn’t fight being humorous, if I had to. Hopefully, my sculptures are whimsical and sensitive; they have their own spirit.”
Internationally known for his irresistible animal sculptures, Warner captures with vision and insight the essence of animals, preserving not only the animals of nature, but also the nature of animals.
Above all, Warner seems to connect directly with the souls of animals, enabling him to recreate the llama who seems to beg for warm milk, the cow with loving eyes of a mother, or a quizzical orangutan.
Warner’s love for animals was sparked in his childhood growing up in rural central Michigan. Spending most of his time in the woods, Warner made friends with the groundhog and owls. “I learned to walk quietly up to chipmunks and deer, or they would come close to me. There was a communication both ways. I don’t believe animals operate purely on instinct. They have personalities: it’s just whether you crack the code. It seems I can feel their souls and they mine.”
The sculptures are a tricky meshing of three different elements wedded structurally and visually to look like a single substance. The head is sculpted in clay; (the nostrils are always done first: Warner wants to make sure it can breathe.) the flat, shinny body is of birch cabinetry wood; the legs are of steel drilled into the body, and, for the free standing sculptures, into a fossilized coral base. Sculpted epoxy resin then covers it completely, unifying transitions. Finally, the painting pulls itall together and the fanciful creature is born.
In addition to his trademark animal sculptures, Warner is known for his not-so-every-day folk, bigger-than-life home installations, and public works. Warner creations live in the distinguished collections of the corporate headquarters of USA Today, McDonald’s Corporation, the homes of Zsa Zsa Gabor, actress Kelly McGillis, Charles Gibson of “Good Morning America,” and the public spaces of the Orlando International Airport and the New York Thruway, to name a few.