Amber Michelle Russell: She Isn’t Goth and Neither Are We
I don’t know much about art but Amber Michelle Russel immediately caught my attention. Not only is she beautiful, intelligent, and talented, but her art immediately triggered a strong reaction inside me. Her work ranges from finely crafted portraits to the brutally raw and visceral.
JNC: A previous Wisconsin Sickness article mentions that for you art is a therapy which you need. I know what that’s like. For me writing is a release. Either I’m gaining the satisfaction of creation, or I’m exercising some sort of demon. Which is it most often for you?
AMR: I would have to say both. There is no greater beauty than in release. Getting your feelings out through a canvas or an idea on paper is one of the best experiences humanly possible. The fact that people enjoy it as well is just a perk.
JNC: I’d read somewhere that you’ve no formal art training. This came as a surprise to me based on the quality and the originality of your work. Did your skill come merely through constant practice, or where you able to identify and emulate the fundamentals and principles involved in making art at this high a level?
AMR: This usually comes as a shock to most people. Personally I take that as the highest of compliments. Art was something that I was always interested in. It was the one thing that made sense in the world. I remember being a little girl and always having a “doodle pad” in my hand at all times. Most children were outside playing while I was inside drawing or coloring. I think being consistent with my art over the years and always pushing myself has really helped me grow as an artist.
JNC: Everyone’s aware of the cliche of an artist pursuing the creation of a “masterpiece.” Is there a masterpiece in your mind that you’re desperately trying to bring to life?
AMR: No not at all. I’m always creating. Any painting, drawing or sketch is a chance to grow. I am constantly pushing myself to learn new techniques. Maybe one day someone will view one of my works as a “masterpiece” but I will never look at [it] myself that way.
JNC: Your art is often intense and intimidating. What’s the strongest reaction you’ve ever gotten to a piece?
AMR: I often times get “why is your work so unpleasant?” or “I don’t get it.” and I say to that, the world is unpleasant and maybe your not suppose to “get it.” I think most people enjoy looking at pleasant imagery. It gives them a happy feeling inside… The thing about dark art is that it has a much smaller audience, that enjoys seeing very disturbing images. Not because they are insane or mentally ill, but because they can open up their minds and see the beauty in the raw emotion being expressed.
JNC: There’s currently a bit of a scandal involving Wisconsin Sickness. A certain segment of Wisconsin’s populace has taken offense to the site given it’s look and content. Much of that content is art in a similar vein to much of your work. “Dark” for lack of a better term. Have you encountered this sort of closed-mindedness personally in your creative life?
AMR: Yes I have. One of my latest experiences was from a curator in a small gallery in Los Angeles. He wanted to see my work and then called it “goth” saying he didn’t understand the whole goth movement. So on and so forth. This man was very smug and didn’t care about anything I had to say. I know the type of work I do isn’t for everyone and I understand that. Does that mean I will start painting flowers and landscapes because I received a negative reaction to one of my pieces? Of course not. But when showing my work I take great caution in explicit warnings, making sure it is adults only.
Society is society and will unfortunately always be narrow minded, But that’s why art is just that much more important. Self expression can never be disciplined.
JNC: I see that you too dislike the term “goth.” The media has been referring to Wisconsin Sickness in a similar fashion. I think a new term needs to be invented for art and lifestyles with an unpleasant aesthetic. Until that time comes, how do you describe your art to others?
AMR: I usually describe my work as “macabre dark art”.
JNC: Where do the ideas for your art come from? Are they feelings being expressed? Does it spring from an idea?
AMR: The ideas or meanings for my painting stem from a certain way I was or am feeling at the time. I like to focus on very emotional or painful subject matter. Some people see different things in my work, A lot of the time people wonder what it means. Really the only thing that’s important is that they feel something when the look at it…
Check out Amber’s website right here: www.ambermichellerussell.com