DENISE VARNER began her adult life in Philadelphia in the mid-1970s where she began a lifelong study of color taking the scientific approach first. She studied the physics of light, optics, the anatomy and physiology of the eye and brain, and the psychology of perception. In Philadelphia, she encountered the writings of Robert Henri and Josef Albert which became lifelong influences. There, she took advantage of the many art collections and experts in the Northeast to inform her personal art education. She continued her advanced scientific studies with post-graduate work and internships on the West Coast. Leaving academics for a career in industry, she concentrated on the technology of visual representation and visual display for human-computer interfaces. Throughout her scientific and technical career, she continued to seek out opportunities for art education in the U.S. and Europe. In the 1990s, she began to paint and collaborated in music projects under the pseudonym of Penelope Rhaenda.
Currently, she defines herself as a painter (although she engages in other forms of mark making and is exploring clay sculpture). Her primary work nowadays is non-representational abstract painting, using classic supports, preferring linen on wooden stretchers and acrylic paint All her work—but most especially her recent work—uses color not only as its bedrock but also as the source of image energy. Above this structure, she imposes a non-linear geometry of marks that serves as a counterpoint to the fundamental color form. Her intent is to depict universal affective states and emotion through the energy of color and movement of paint.