Don Russell is a multidisciplinary artist of Acadian and Mi’kmaq heritage. He was born in Stephenville, Newfoundland in 1970 and currently resides in Cambridge, Ontario.
“I am from the West coast of Newfoundland, typically referred to as the French shore, but also rich with Mi’kmaq culture and history. The forests in this part of the province are thick with spruce, birch and alders. In areas the forest is nearly impenetrable as trees mesh together and form a barrier of branches, twigs and an indistinguishable haze of foliage. My ancestors have lived on this land for untold generations and my connection to this geography and cultural heritage infuses my work at every turn.
This work explores my sense of what it means to be an aboriginal person who depicts the landscape through forms of western painting. For the Mi’kmaq the forest is a place that is a metaphor for the subconscious mind…the deeper you penetrate the forest the deeper you delve into the unconscious. To reflect this extraordinary psychological condition, I use natural materials such as wax, charcoal, and found pigments on handmade paper. I explore the landscape and our relationship to it.
I paint the image in such a way that it threatens to dissolve and disintegrate, not as a statement of ecology or identity but rather as a means to reflect the psychological relationship I (we) have with the forest based on the Mi’kmaq way of seeing the natural world. It is an alchemical approach that aims to establish an image through the process, where accidents are welcome and intentions are subverted,” Don Russell.
Russell’s artistic practice encompasses encaustic painting, printmaking and land art where he utilizes key elements of stone and earth to create monumental installations. Currently, he is producing a major land art project for the Art Gallery of Guelph with a theme of a gathering space that pays homage to First Nations people who originally inhabited the Guelph, Ontario area.
Russell completed his Bachelor of Arts with a specialization in fine arts at the University of Guelph in 1995, where he studied with such distinguished artists as Margaret Priest, Suzy Lake, Ron Shuebrook and Harold Klunder. In 2002, he completed the Dundas Valley of Art Advanced Studies Programme under the direction of John Wilkinson.
His work is represented in private, public and corporate collections across Canada, notably among them is the Governor Generals’ Residence Rideau Hall in Ottawa, the University of Toronto Law School and the University of Guelph.