Thursday, January 29, 2009


Ayouni: My Eyes
(c) Francine Russelle, 2007
10" x 10" x 6", Arabic calligraphy and mixed media on canvas

I kept finding the eyes from torn stuffed animals all over the house (my dogs play rough with their toys) and for some reason I didn't trash them but put them in a jar on the kitchen table.

Then one day I decided that they were "ephemera" and took them out to the studio. After weeks of trial and error,technical difficulties with various media and adhesives they morphed into "Ayouni: My Eyes".

Media used includes: Toy eyes, half of a paper mache mask, acrylic and metallic paint, emu feathers, old prescription glasses, bottle tops, 35mm slide mount, Milagros, torn bits of Arabic text and a blue eye bead from Turkey.

Everything and anything can be ephemera; never throw anything away (within reason, of course).

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


The Curious Case of the Bathtub Barbies
(c) Francine Russelle, 2008
8" x 15" x 4", mixed media in cigar box

My granddaughters inspired this piece, although they've yet to see it. I'm certain they'll be furious, then they'll laugh. It is pretty sick.

When they were small I noticed that each time they received a new doll, the first thing they did was take the clothes off. Over the years I've learned that nearly all little girls do this, hence boxes and boxes of naked Barbies. What did I know? I'm the mother of sons.

I'd been collecting discarded dolls for a while and La Luz contributed some of her daughter's discarded dolls as well. But it wasn't until I saw an ad for a high-end faucet featuring Barbie dolls in a soap filled kitchen sink that it came together in my head. As I began to construct the piece I realized I had extra doll parts, which I put to use. The piece began to take on a macabre life of its own when I added a leftover skeleton (Anorexic Ken), a bottle of poison, soap, bubbles, marbles and some "attitude".


Disconnected Letters: Alef, Lam, Mim
(c) Francine Russelle, 2008
8" x 16", mixed media on slashed canvas
with Arabic calligraphy, using Golden Mean

Disconnected Letters: Saad
(c) Francine Russelle, 2008
10" x 10", mixed media on canvas with drywall mud
and Arabic calligraphy, using Golden Mean

I've had a fascination with Arabic calligraphy for decades, especially the so-called "disconnected letters" which appear before about a quarter of the surahs (verses) of the Holy Qur'an. They are never connected and are always pronounced individually. Fourteen of the 28 Arabic letters are used in this way. There is no "correct" reason for this; minds much finer than mine have attempted to explain them. They just are.

In Arabic each letter (consonant) has a numerical value. The system of reckoning or numerology is called Abjad (which are the first four letters of the alphabet (alef, bet, jim, dal.)) In Hebrew a similar system exists; it is called Gematria and is used extensively in Kabbalah.

But I rather like the idea that there is no reason that wo/man can understand for their being. I've seen these shapes in clouds, in flowers, in nature -- perhaps a kind of fractal. I dream them as I write them, read them, doodle them. But I can't explain them. They just are.

There is a Quwwali song recorded by the Sabri Brothers which says, in translation: And Gabriel told me at the Dawn of Creation, Trust not the Heart that is Slave to Reason. I think it applies in this case. They just are.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Exorcising Demons

Sticks and Stones
(c) Francine Russelle, 2007
5" x 7" x 1", Mixed Media in mint tins

I found a photo of myself taken sometime before age two. It was taken on the beach in Venice, California. It's the only photo with both my parents that I've ever seen; I have no clear memories which pre-date the photo nor do I remember the day it was taken.

This was a real case of exorcising demons. Found chicken bones, nails, barbed wire, rocks, milagros, broken glass and other assorted ephemera. Scanned the faded black and white photo, blew it up and cropped out my mother and father, then printed it in sepia tone. Wired the two tins together, side by side, and added text, paint and tea bags.

Used old fashioned typewriter font to write: Sticks and stones and broken bones, from these I can recover. Nasty names and cruelty games, these scars can last forever.

Studio Buddy

Curio Cabinet
(c) La Luz, 2008
22" x 18" x 10" opened, Mixed Media

It's such fun having a studio buddy. Mine is La Luz, who is also my caregiver. I would not be able to get out there and work without her help. (I would not be able to take a bath without her help either, but that's another story.) I'm doubly blessed because La Luz is an artist in her own right.

Watching the birth of "Curio Cabinet" was truly amazing. La Luz bought the cabinet at a flea market. Originally, she painted it white and attempted a crackle finish. She hated the look and put it aside for nearly a year while working on other projects and helping me. She was finally inspired by some of her children's old toys and then the project just took off. Dolls and other ephemera were painted in differing shades of white and silver, "exhibits" were numbered and catalogued, and when it was complete I was blown away.

I love it!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


Frida Fan
(c) Francine Russelle, 2008
6" x 4" x 2", mixed media on canvas and canvas board with barbed wire and milagros

I was privileged to see an "original" Frida Kahlo painting/collage at the Albuquerque Museum in 2006. I was amazed at the third dimension of this work. Photographs never did it justice.

Then earlier this year I found a deck of "Frida (playing) Cards" in the gift shop at the Hispanic Cultural Center. Once I opened the deck, the piece just came together on its own. It was inspired ...

Monday, December 8, 2008

My Poor Tooth

The End of Wisdom: Last Pearl
(c) 2008 Francine Russelle
4" x 6" x 1", mixed media on canvas and canvas board

This piece was like pulling teeth, literally.

I needed to have my last wisdom tooth extracted a few months ago. I asked for the tooth and, apparently, that's not such a strange request because the nurse put it inside this cute little plastic case and handed it to me along with the instructions on how to care for my mouth once the anesthesia wore off.

I knew I wanted to do something with it, to enshrine it somehow. I like using mini-matchboxes. The gold calligraphy, pearls, tea bags, a scrabble tile and roses just appeared in the studio. I'm quite pleased with the result.