Richard Russell

Artist Statement

I have been making collages since I was six. After my first attempt, I was scolded for cutting up my parents’ magazines and getting glue on the dining room table. Undaunted and now in mid-career, it is still my favorite medium. For the past four years my collages have been constructed from the vintage books, letters, and papers I collect, and a substantial part of my inspiration is the constant decay of these ephemeral materials. Crumbling books are taken apart page by page, carefully dissected, sorted, and filed by hierarchies and taxonomies. My source library is focused on a basic litany of personally symbolic imagery—birds, insects, animals [walking, crawling, swimming]; plants, fruit, flowers [roses, wildflowers, non-flowering]; art history [men, women, drapery, landscape] and many others—but by far my favorite subjects are anatomical and medical illustrations. I am absolutely fascinated by seemingly morbid old chromolithographs of X, Y, or Z ailment or disorder, not because they are lurid or gruesome, but because they are haunting, gorgeously-rendered representations of the human body at its most vulnerable. They show us as the soft, fragile beings we are, ambivalent in our tentative victories over the unseen forces we often forget exist in nature. The processes and procedures of illness, prevention, and cure intrigue me to no end. These figures also reflect the way we “speak” to our selves, our bodies, each other, and the layers of visible and invisible worlds surrounding us. We are rapidly dislocating ourselves from some of our most ancient and basic forms of communication (handwriting, letter writing), and removing ourselves from our traditional, holistic connectedness to the natural world (folk remedies, food customs, seasonal rituals). I’m not a luddite, nor do I mourn these disconnections out of maudlin nostalgia (on the contrary, I work with technology daily—much of my artwork depends on it—and I’ve become very accustomed to the luxuries it allows.) For the most part, we live in a sterilized society where we rarely witness the miracles of birth or death (and, some might argue, anything in between), where being sick equals being dirty, and where many of us rarely see stars or know one plant from another, much less the vocabularies and fables associated with them. Food is purged of taste and nutrition in order to stave off decay and damage. Children are kept indoors for fear of boo-boos and boogiemen. “Wild” is an abstract term. Our bodies don’t require that we be old-fashioned, but I hate to imagine a life entirely unfettered by those bonds. I hope that my collages are quietly disturbing reminders of these losses.

Richard Russell’s Website

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One response to “Richard Russell”

  1. Zeroelliott says:

    I absolutely agree with everything Russell says! Which is rare….but actually I do similiar stuff-not as well though!Great work-I bet He is a fan of Joseph Cornell as well…….

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