Russell notices the simultaneous actions all around him. There’s the vibration of energy he feels anytime he dives into a visit to New York City. There are the abstract expressionist paintings he creates while a friend plays music. And there’s the sense of maturity that comes will being part of a successful mural painting business in town.
It all adds up to a new exhibition for Russell, one he’ll celebrate on Thursday with a party a District Wine Bar in the Wedge Studios building. The party goes from 6-9 p.m. at the new wine bar, where Russell’s paintings grace the wall. The name of the exhibition is “Synchrony.”
Russell’s excited to show his newest paintings. At age 40, he’s part of a successful mural painting business in town, Brushcan Murals, working alongside Scott Allred. He says the success has helped open up space for him to experiment and continue his artist search.
“I’m willing to embrace more subtle elements, rather than have everything being over the top, which makes certain aspects of it more digestible,” he says in thinking over how his new work compares with older work.
Inspiration sprang from two places for Russell with his new paintings. The first was a visit to New York City. He says he’s always “overwhelmed with the passion and rhythm” of the city. There’s a deep connection to place, and those big city lights, tall buildings and soaring bridges find their way into his work through lines and color strokes.
The second inspiration was music. Russell says he painted much of his new work while listening to his friend Eddie Dewey playing guitar. Dewey, an Asheville real estate agent, is also a musician who has played around town for several years, most notably with the Blue Dragons.
The musical inspiration runs deep for Russell, who says he grew up listening to his mother, a classical pianist, practice nightly in the next room. And getting back to New York, Russell notes that city’s connection to jazz and greats such as Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie.
“New York has this movement and diversity and constant effort. It’s alive. That energy is its own thing. I guess I was embracing that,” Russell says.
Russell hopes that those elements add up to work that represents “an honest search, an honest approach.” He notes that some viewers often don’t know what to make of abstract work as they search for more literal meaning. Russell says he hopes fans of visual art can dispense with that, study his work “and see the battle, see the obvious struggle that’s happened and see that somehow there’s been a resolution.”
The art exhibition opening at District Wine Bar also holds extra meaning for Russell. Following his art studies at UNC Asheville, Russell sold several paintings to artist John Payne, the founder of Wedge Studios in the Asheville River Arts District and a mentor to many young artists at the time. Looking around the space, her remembers the location of Payne’s apartment, and recalls “incredible shows we used to have in this space.”
It’s a time, a place, an energy he hopes he’s captured.
“My hope for what people get from the work is a real experience, that they feel like they’re getting a real experience out of something as old fashioned as a painting,” Russell says.
“I think with all the different stimuli around us these days, it’s more and more challenging to create something as simple as a static image and still have it be of interest, still have it convey something stimulating,” Russell says.
“This can be powerful, and something that people can look at and experience real emotion.”