Doug Russell is a visual artist who lives and works in Laramie, Wyoming. His work in drawing and painting explores two major creative directions: entangled and knotted natural forms, and monumental architectural compositions. Both bodies of work ultimately are meditations upon structure, repetition, and variation. He currently holds the position of Associate Professor of Art at the University of Wyoming where he is coordinator of the drawing program.
Artist Statement My two creative directions were initially based in observational drawing but quickly expanded into imagined and invented realities. Conceptually both the imagery and process of the work express and describe the universal cycle of germination/construction, growth/expansion, overcrowding/decay, and renewal. More specifically the work balances transparency and opacity, rootedness and mobility, freedom and entanglement, surface and depth, and the legibility and erosion of form. The drawings, paintings, installations, and constructions which have resulted from this creative inquiry utilize both traditional and less traditional forms and media. Throughout this work I have stayed deeply rooted to the tradition of drawing while allowing influences from printmaking, painting, and sculpture to enhance my investigations.
The organically focused work, which began as simple observational studies, developed over time into a somewhat unnatural confluence of forms taken from both flora and fauna sources. My intention was to create something both attractive and disturbing. This body of work progressed through several series and eventually evolved into four twenty foot long panoramas for an exhibition at the Urban Institute for Contemporary Art in Michigan.
Whereas the organic drawings investigate growth and expansion in the natural world, my architectural work focuses on cycles of building and ruin. In the Empire series, thoughts of empires past, present, and future guide my choices in creating a visual language of colossal forms which are simultaneously coming into and fading from existence. In these drawings and paintings, I explore an improvisational approach to building images of invented monumental architecture paralleling my approach in the entangled organic drawings. This process often continues to a point where the image erodes leaving only vestiges of the initial form. This contemplation of the simultaneous construction and destruction of manmade form stems from my experience living for two years in Turkey, a country which I still return to and explore every other summer. In Turkey there is a wealth of ruin and renewal. Anatolia has seen numerous civilizations wash across its soil, from the Etruscans, Hittites and Greeks, to the Romans, Byzantines, and Ottomans. Each laid down its foundations on the previous. Each left evidence of past grandeur. Today the layered landscape that remains reveals this epic ebb and flow of construction and devastation.
In the end, both of my creative directions become entertaining visual puzzles to solve while reflecting upon the liminal state between permanence and impermanence, between creation and ruin.