SERRAH RUSSELL

I was born in 1986 and have lived in Washington state for as long as I can remember. 

My practice is a constant exploration of the photographic image and its ability to evoke memory, emotion and association. I am intrigued by how malleable photos can be so I seek to harness that as I manipulate, crop and juxtapose found photos, mostly from magazines advertisements and editorials, and use that material to investigate the relationship between subject and surrounding, specifically the way our human emotions become entwined with our physical environment.

In my work I strive to encourage empathy, to evoke the feeling of being in the right place at the right time, to recall the déjà vu of a dream and to bring about a new way of seeing. 

I earned a BFA in Photography from the University of Washington and currently make my work and home in Seattle. My work has been exhibited in numerous solo and group exhibitions in the Northwest, including at Glass Box, Two Shelves, SOIL, Photo Center Northwest, the Alice, the Hedreen, Frye Art Museum, Lawrimore Project and has also been exhibited in Vancouver, British Columbia; Melbourne, Australia; London, England; Athens, Greece, Los Angeles, CA and New York, NY.

I founded and served as director and curator of Violet Strays (2011-2016), an online arts exhibition space focusing on experimentation and temporality and am currently co-curator of Vignettes, based in Seattle and New York.


PROJECT SPOTLIGHT: The Evening and The Evening Out: 100 Days of Collage

2016 – 2017

The 2016 presidential election results left many feeling a wave of shock and unease. Seattle-based artist Serrah Russell channelled this disquiet into 100 Days of Collage, a series of daily meditations reflecting on the past and the ambiguous future of a newly changing world. They are simple, yet remarkably layered - fusing disparate images from issues of National Geographic and various fashion magazines to build a narrative that combines defeatist confusion with a glimmer of molotov, hope and resistance. 
— Jon Feinstein, Humble Arts Foundation
 

Many things culminated to bring about this body of work. At the end of 2016, I was finally getting settled into my new home, complete with a studio all my own. I was ready to start seeing what I could make with this new space, but unsure where to begin. Then the results of the 2016 election came in. I was suddenly feeling a lot of unexpected emotions and seeking a way to process them. A friend of mine began a similar project of 100 Days of Painting around that time and it was inspiring to witness how therapeutic it felt to her process of creation and to me as a viewer. It inspired me to begin my own project. "100 Days of Collage" has been a way for me to set up a ritual of creating. I have begun to see making as an act of daily meditation, a ritual for reflection, and a place to speak. I believe that my work feels most true when it comes from a personal place, influenced by my surroundings and my experiences and during this time, I was feeling a lot and was compelled to do something. Of course, there is so much more that I can do to help and to make change besides making art, but for me, art is building the ground floor. It is a means for self-care, a way to be heard, listen and to understand. And so I began. And so I continued. I admit that there were many days that I was tired, that I was uninspired, that I felt like I had nothing to say or I was saying something no one wanted to hear. But there was never a day that I regretted spending the time, in the quiet of the night in my studio. (Serrah Russell, 3/15/2017)

The same world that made you feel so bad was the one that made you feel so good. (2/3/17)

Forming soft shields (2/5/17)

Finding that a fading memory is for your own protection. (1/5/17)


Where do you see this project going?

First and foremost, I would love to turn the 100 Days of Collage into a publication. I think that it reads in a linear way, day by day, and the collages build on each other from an aesthetic point as well as conceptually as things progressed in the culture and politics in those beginning days of the new leadership of our country. I'm working on that with a local designer and looking to produce that in late 2018.

I have exhibited a portion of the series, featuring about 50 works, in a gallery here in Washington. In the future I would love to have an exhibition space where I could exhibit all 100 days, one after another and get the sense of the work as a whole, day by day. It'd be interesting to see them each paired alongside the front page of the newspaper from that day, to see the events that were inspiring the work.

Above: Installation views of The Evening and The Evening Out: 100 Days of Collage at Feast, Tacoma, WA, 2017 (photos by Rafael Soldi)

What helps you sustain your current creative practice?

I've been asking this question a lot of myself lately. The 100 Days of Collages was an attempt to sustain my practice, to give myself a prompt or a challenge and force myself to get in the studio and to keep making and looking and listening on a daily basis. I like to create prompts or challenges for myself, to see if an assignment or a deadline can shift the work.

I am curious in general how we as artists stay inspired and keep working. How do we keep working in new ways that we haven't explored before and that might not fit with our vision of ourselves or the vision other's have of us or our work? Along with that, can we as artists be ok with taking a break? Taking time to breathe in before worrying about breathing out. I guess what I'm saying is that I'm interested in how we as artists can resist the capitalist idea that more is better, that production is a definition of success or worth.

Logistically, when I'm in a funk or a pause, I try to get out to see art but mostly to see other artists and ask them what they've been doing. I try to read more and go on more walks or just get outside in general, out of my studio. I like to take long baths and go running. Somehow those non-creative yet physical activities get me centered in my body and allow my brain to open up to new ideas.

I also have been using this tool lately - http://www.oblicard.com/# It gives a prompt that can help spark creativity or a new way of working. The best one was the question "What would you never do?" And then in answering that, I tried actually to break those rules that I had unconsciously created for myself and for my art.

What’s next for you?

Right now I am working on launching a physical gallery space here in Seattle called Found that is curated by 4 artist/curators. It will be a flexible exhibition space for contemporary and experimental visual art and performance. More on that in Spring 2018. Follow now at www.instagram.com/found.space for future updates.

It might not sound like much, but right now I'm working on getting my studio organized, going through and purging old work and getting a better sense of what I've created these last few years. It has been helping me to visually see growth and change and also to tie together different projects and themes over the years. I end up finding little moments that I started but didn't fully explore and I'm letting those be jumping off points to the future. 

Another plan for the future is to continue to work on my series A Woman Is Always An Island. I want to photograph more women, to travel to create more portraits in different bodies of water and to find an appropriate space to exhibit that work that would feel honoring of the women in the project and tie in the work as image but also as temporal private performance.


KEEP UP WITH SERRAH