St. Anne’s-Belfield School art teacher debuts first solo show

stab art teacherThroughout October Mr. John Russell, St. Anne’s-Belfield School’s kindergarten through third grade art teacher and instructor of grades seven and eight visual arts, will exhibit new work in his first solo show. His encaustic paintings will be displayed at Over the Moon Bookshop and Artisan Gallery in Crozet until the end of the month.

“Mentally I’ve been contemplating the types of works I did this year for quite a long time, but without finding the perfect medium to express my sensations,” said Russell. “It comes out of an interest I have in cosmology, metaphysics, and philosophy. There is a Sanskrit word, ‘maya,’ which basically means, ‘what appears, but really is not existing.’ This is something that I wanted to express visually.”

Encaustic painting, also known as hot wax painting due to the use of heated beeswax enhanced with colored pigments, dates back to the Ancient Greeks. Pigment may be layered, melted, and scraped, allowing for great flexibility and spontaneity in the creative process.

“Encaustic paint cools and sets up almost instantly going from the heated palette to the panel,” explained Russell. “It seemed the perfect medium to depict the flickering aspect of what appears, yet is transient, whether a beautiful sunset, a crashing wave on the beach, or a blue sky with clouds hovering.”

With the encouragement of his wife Maureen, Russell spent the summer devoting his full energy to art. He created two to three paintings a week, sometimes more. He shared paintings on Facebook, and received encouragement from friends, colleagues, and parents at the School. Yet he credits the students with whom he works for the most direct impact on his art.

“St. Anne’s-Belfield School is an amazing place to work,” he said. “The students inspire me every day, hopefully as much as I inspire them… I believe that there are no mistakes in art, only experiments, explorations, and attempts at expressing ourselves. It is not only famous artists that make art, but our students when they are being truly authentic and honest with their feelings and means of expression. It is the students who have always kept me going, watching their lives evolve, seeing them grow into their true selves.”

Over the Moon Bookstore and Artisan Gallery is located at 5798 Three Notch’d Road in Crozet. It is open seven days a week.

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