CHRIS RUSSELL, GROW OUT, 2021, oil on linen, 42 x 50
About "After Life" The decaying remains of old giants yield new life. Saplings, sprouts, moss, lichen and fungus displayed in abundance like flowers on the grave of a beloved. Russell finds hope in these stumps, decomposition becomes reorganization, death to fertility, these dead giants don’t vanish but instead break down and return life through the omnipresent mycorrhiza network of the forest.
These paintings were made within the last year, the second year of a pandemic, a time of collective anxiety and isolation. During this time, while most of Russell’s social interactions ceased, some of his best days were filled with simple walks in the forest. In the forest it’s easy to become enthralled by the quest to find different mushrooms. Spotting one would leads to many more as he started to envision their subterranean networks. As Chris and his wife walk through the woods, they let their dog off the leash, she is free to romp around and blaze the trail for them. She is the dog Chris and his wife, Sara, adopted during the first year of the pandemic, shortly after they had a backyard wedding. A wedding that had fewer guests than there were fingers on Chris’s right hand. She is their pandemic dog, one that isn’t socialized enough for the frequent dog encounters found on the popular hiking trails. While momentous on a personal level, getting married and adopting a dog have become cliché quarantine activities, right up there in popularity with baking bread. Russell doesn’t think these activities became popular out of boredom but instead because we were all collectively longing for connection.
Walking through the woods, stepping into deep pillows of moss and humus there is a tangible connection between everything growing and decaying. Learning about the intricacies of this interconnected landscape through excited talks from an eccentric mycologist, expands on the enchantment felt while walking in the forest. The frontier of mycology seems to occupy a realm where science and magic are fluid, not unlike quantum physics. Pragmatic scientific patents coexist with discussions of eutierria or oneness with all the earth. From cleaning up oil spills, to fighting depression there is a contagious aura of optimism in the potential of mycology today. During his forest ramble, Russell finds mycelium working to break down the remains of dead trees bearing witness to the process of regeneration.
The transformation of death to new life provides optimism that combats Russell’s anxiety about the state of our planet.
Biography Born in Boulder, Colorado, Chris Russell earned his BFA from California College of the Arts in 2006. After ten years in the Bay Area, Russell spent the summer of 2012 in Piedmont, Italy as Martin Arts artist in residence. His work has been exhibited throughout the California Bay Area, Italy and Oregon. Chris Russell lives and works in Portland, Oregon.