“Wadda you see?”
“Can you find it?”
“I don’t see...oh, THERE it is!”
Russ McIntosh, a local photo collage artist, delighted listeners at his DoubleTake talk last Saturday Night with an upscale Where’s-Waldo-like hunt through his images. They are chock-full of cultural references including his favorite Pearl Jam song, a Japanese tattoo, and stellar as well as planetary astronomy.
McIntosh started out in parking lot outside a Grateful Dead concert. Bereft of tickets, he sold his art. What began from pen and ink and colored pencil drawings inspired by looking up at a cloud-filled day sky or a star-filled night sky has evolved into seriously or Siriusly beautiful collages. Using NASA images as well as his own taken from moving cars and flying planes, he “appropriates the stars” to give a boundless feeling to his work.
“There are entire worlds in the sky!” McIntosh exclaims.
Reminiscent of album covers one could venture into on long, solitary walks of the mind, McIntosh invites his clients to look closely at the shadows and highlights to find hidden delights. From cherubs to more mature nudes (of whom he claims to be a connoisseur), to Dali and dalliances, he moves your vision from the painting to your soul and back out into space in one fell swoop.
Like the expression on an elder’s face, his images have many layers. At first glance you register a general impression, but it is only with a longer visual conversation with the piece do you begin to understand its life.
While Dali and Escher excite McIntosh to explore the surreal and infinity simultaneously, his “Natural Beauty” was inspired by one of Frederic Church’s paintings. McIntosh adventured down Route 81 and 11 where “the stars are vibrant and alive” and took over 300 pictures of the Natural Bridge . He then painstakingly removed all of the wandering tourists at its base and added the spirit of a Native American woman whose story he had recently heard. Can you find her?
A gallery goer whose art is expressed in landscaping fell for “Comforting Warmth,” which McIntosh created for someone who had lost a longtime friend and used bright flowers and beams of light to create a feeling of ascendance.
While ninety per cent of his photos he takes himself, he asked his FB friends to send him as many pictures of graveyards as they could to give him fodder for a Halloween themed triptych he submitted to a art competition: Somnus, Solace and Serenity aka The Deadcandance. Okay, read that again. The Dead Can Dance. He won first prize.
Perhaps it was “Somnus,” that spoke to me first. But certainly not last. His images reveal one’s own forgotten layers too. I conjured snowy college memories of midnight sledding on cafeteria trays through Oakwood Cemetery in Syracuse and directing my first high school film in Super 8 at the Oak Hill Cemetery in Georgetown. I challenge you to find the spirits imbedded in his Deadcandance landscape and see which of your haunting memories lurk there.
Let's thank curator Stephanie Shapiro of the Center for Green Urbanism for his first solo show. Hurry and go as it ends August 31. So take that short 27 minute trip from Takoma Park to 3938 Benning Road NE, 20019. Tel: 202-506-3867.
It’s easy to pass on the first go as it is in a house on a hill that overlooks the city. However, parking is permitted in the DC library lot across the street.
See more of McIntosh’s work at www.russmcintosh.com or contact him directly at email@example.com
Inspired to use NASA copyright free images and/or videos in your work? Click here for more info.
Make an evening of it as we did by transiting H Street NE and enjoy some mussels and Belgian beer at Granville Moore’s gastropub before heading home.