top of page

Brian Russell


Brian Russell’s artistic endeavors began in the late seventies when he started exploring black and white photography. Concentrating on the human form Russell pursued photography as his primary expressive medium until his introduction to sculpture in 1981. Studying art and art history at Rhodes College, Russell  began assembling found object steel sculptures.

After graduating in 1983 he began building furniture and functional items of steel and wood,opening his studio in 1985.  Soon thereafter Russell became aware of the creative possibilities of working with hot forged metals. Using the tools and techniques of traditional blacksmiths allowed the shaping of metal into forms matching his creative vision. For the next nine years Russell worked in his studio on Broad Avenue, building everything from fire screens to monumental gates, from sculpture to lighting.  Mastering new techniques and materials stimulated his creative vision, each new work allowing a synthesis of ideas.  Driven to incorporate color into his work, Russell began experimenting with fused glass and pate-de-verre.  Initially focused on glass vessels and fixtures, Russell laid the foundation for subsequent mixed media sculpture. His visual vocabulary was derived from his travels, nature and the human form.

In 1994 Russell moved his studio to 15 acres in the countryside northeast of Memphis.  During the next six years, Russell produced an exceptional volume of work, including four commissions for monumental architectural sculptures., including Dancers, Ballet Memphis building, and Blue Plate Special, Wolfchase Gallleria, Memphis. On a visit to New Zealand in 1999 Russell was exposed to a lost wax glass casting technique which he adapted through two more years of hard work and research resulting in the current state of Russell’s art: a fusion of forged metals and cast glass unique to his sculpture. The transparency and optical nature of the richly colored cast glass have an inherent emotional effect that enable the artist to speak quietly, yet powerfully about his ideas on the nature of reality and purity of form.  The effect of the metal forgings, synergized with the images presented by the vivid glass castings give life to his sculptures.

Scale and structure, form and materials, light and shadow, are the guideposts on Russell’s continuing exploration of life through sculptural expression. His more recent installations include the 30’ long Run Wild, in San Francisco, and the monumental outdoor work Torrential, purchased by the town of Newburyport, MA for their Rail Trail project. In 2011 Russell exported 14 of his sculptures for the new palace of Prince Mansour Bin Abdullah in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, as well as completing corporate commissions for SAS Instiute and Evraz Steel.  2012 and 2013 saw major sales to collectors in Qatar and Singapore. In the fall of 2013, running through spring 2014, Russell exhibited both indoor and outdoor works at The Dixon Gallery and Gardens in Memphis. Future exhibitions include the Cummer Museum in Jacksonville, Florida and The New Britain Museum of American Art in Connecticut.

Artist Statement

Academics debate the merits, examine the historical influences and try to place works of art in context. But the average person, who doesn’t know much about art, still knows what they like, as the adage goes. This I attribute to the emotional content of art, the so-called expressiveness of the work. Whether vile,sublime or ridiculous, art affects the viewer first and foremost on a gut level. Deeper appreciation can certainly be achieved by understanding its place in history, political agenda or school of aesthetic thought. But without some powerful energy to initially overcome the lay viewer’s inertia, a work of art remains unremarkable to the public. The artist’s public job is to engage by focusing their personal energy into a physical object. There are obviously many levels of subtlety to this process, from Disney to a Zen garden. For the artist, the difficulty of making meaningful work lies in balancing the personal and the public aspects of the work.

Sculpture is a vital element in our visual environment. The creation of objects that exist in three dimensions whose purpose is to stimulate reflection, meditation, awe and amusement is as unique to humans as it is ancient.  I create works that will live harmoniously in the world as independent  functionaries of society. I draw inspiration from forms and rhythms in nature, ancient artifacts, mathematics and science, and the very materials I use, distilling these influences into abstract points of intersection. My aim on a public scale is to involve the viewer, to interject into the world points of beauty, interest and spontaneity.  I want   people to use my sculpture as an excuse to mentally shift to another level of consciousness, above their daily concerns, even for a moment, and to reconnect with themselves via a primal, emotional , cortex-controlled response to an encounter with an unexpected oasis in a visual desert.

On a personal level creating sculpture is an endless connected series of experiments.  Technical matters drive visual possibilities. Imaginings require research into materials and techniques.  The act of physically manipulating substances informs the entire thought process. Knowledge of  process induces parameters and frees the mind. The daily work ethic gives total responsibility over the outcome. At the end of the day, my sculpture is about the act of sculpting!

Selected Exhibitions

2014 SOFA Chicago, with Pismo Fine Art Glass

2014 The Art of Science, St Jude Childrens Research Hospital , Nesin Gallery, group exhibit / collaboration

2013 Continuum, Dixon Gallery and Gardens, Memphis; indoor and outdoor sculptures Exhibitions

2013 This is Contemporary Art, Marta Hewett Gallery, Cincinnati

2012 Recent Sculptures, Marta Hewett Gallery, Cincinnati

2011 New Works, Studio E Gallery, Palm Beach Gardens, FL

2010 Anything But Clear; The Studio Glass Movement

1979-2009, Dixon Gallery and Gardens, Memphis

2010 New Sculpture, River Gallery, Chattanooga

2010 Forging Beauty, solo show Marta Hewett Gallery, Cincinnati

2009 30th International Glass Review, Habatat Gallery, Michigan

2009 SOFA Chicago

2009 International Cast Glass Review, St.Joseph Galerie, Netherlands

2008 Vetro/Glass, Forre’ Fine Art, Aspen

2008 Flowers and Art, Dixon Gallery and Gardens, Memphis

2007 Titration, outdoor exhibition, Dublin Arts Council, Dublin, OH, purchase award

2007 Three Masters, Studio E Gallery, Palm Beach

2007 Landscape Sculpture, Marta Hewett Gallery, Cincinnati

2007 Finely Cast, solo exhibition, Baum Gallery of Fine Art, University of Central Arkansas

2006 El Paseo Outdoor Exhibition, Palm Desert

2006 Lines and Spheres, solo exhibition, David Lusk Gallery, Memphis

2005 New Sculpture, solo exhibition at Tobin Hewett Gallery, Louisville

2005 SOFA Chicago, represented by Jerald Melberg Gallery

2005 Earthspace

2005, outdoor sculpture , Arlington, TN

2005 Hot Glass in the Blue Grass, Lexington Art League, merit award

2005 Flowers and Vessels, Eleonore Austerer Gallery, Palm Desert, CA, with Roberto Azank

2005 The Art of Contemporary Blacksmithing, Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft, Louisville

2004 Hemispheres and Gestures, Jerald Melberg Gallery, Charlotte

2004 A Glass Act, solo exhibition, Function Art Gallery, Chicago

bottom of page