Environment influences unique style of art

Campus Times
November 7, 1997

photo by Andrew Woolsey

Karin Russo, a teacher, artist and historian creates collages of paintings, photographs and magazine clippings, now on display in the Harris Art Gallery. The exhibit's reception took place Monday night. The exhibit, "Italia," extends through Nov. 26. Here Russo describes her work, "Tres Scherzi Venetia," for those in attendance at the reception.

by Rob Strauss
Editorial Assistant

Karin Russo always strived for originality in her art classes while in school. If she was in a painting class, she would glue something on top of the painting to be different.

Little did she know that this would work to her advantage someday and her newest exhibit, in the Harris Art Gallery, displays this unique style of art.

Russo combines photographs, magazine pictures and words to create most of her art pieces.

"I enjoy cutting things apart," said Russo. "I like to manipulate whatever it is I do by moving it around, moving it down, putting stuff on top of it."

A great deal of the inspiration for the exhibit came while she was in Italy, hence the name of the exhibit, "Italia." Much of the art in the exhibit includes words that were taken from prose that she wrote while in Italy.

"I never knew what I was going to do with it [the prose]," said Russo. "I didn't think it was that great or anything so I thought, 'You know what? I'm going to use it and put it right on the art work.'"

The fact that her creative output is so effected by the environment is one of the things that interests her. Russo has had the opportunity to live in such diverse places as California, Canada and Italy, with each place affecting her differently.

"Wherever I have lived, I have been influenced by the environment," said Russo. "When I travel to Italy and live there for three months at a time, it has an influence on my art."

The decision to include Russo's exhibit came from the fact that Ruth Trotter, chair of the Art Department, was familiar with Russo's work and also went to school with Russo at Claremont Graduate School.

"The theme of her work lately has been a very focused one and one that I thought would be really interesting to the art students and to the community at large," said Trotter.

Along with being an artist, Russo also teaches at Riverside Community College in a variety of subjects, including art and history.

A few of her art pieces tap into her knowledge of history by featuring saints and, in another case, her interpretation of tarot cards.

"In the early 14th century, the Italians used them to play bridge," said Russo. "They would have hand-painted cards that were really beautiful. They were sort of collectors items."

To include the images in her collages, she uses a Xerox machine and the Photoshop program on the computer, along with painting.

According to Russo, she plans to make more use of computers in her art.

Russo's other future plans include writing a book.

"I think books are precious objects," said Russo. "It's like having more than one piece of art all together."