I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” (Michelangelo)
Born and raised in Tyler, Texas, noted artist and sculptor Daphna Russell now affectionately calls Cedaredge, and Delta County in particular, home. But it was not always so.
Prior to moving to Delta, Russell studied art history and sculpture at the College of William and Mary, in Williamsburg, Va., for three years before transferring to Colorado College in 1956, where she earned a BA in sculpture and art history. She went on to earn a master’s degree in art history and sculpture from Texas Woman’s University in Denton, Texas.
As a student attending Leon High School in Tallahassee Fla., Daphna said she didn’t do as well in her academic studies as her counselors thought she should, so in her junior and senior years she changed her focus to art history, sculpture and choral music, where she excelled.
Daphna said she worked a lot of different jobs to survive, including acting curator of education for the John and Mabel Ringling Museum of Art; curator of educational services at the Wichita Art Museum; and curator of community services at the Dayton Art Museum.
She also taught and lectured on art appreciation and trained “docents” — people who lead tours through museums. She also worked in other professional capacities before moving to Delta in 1984. According to Daphna, she was “flat broke” when she moved to Delta. In order to make ends meet, she took a job as a maid.
Shortly after moving to Delta, Russell began working in watercolors, using pens and brushes. For her subjects, Daphna chose unicorns, dragons and angels “because no one really knows what they look like, so no one could tell me how they should look. I painted four to five hours every day.”
It didn’t take long for her to discover that Delta had a lot of watercolor artists, so she began sculpting, eventually joining Delta Fine Arts “just to be around other artists.” She also began writing articles, putting on workshops and doing educational presentations for other artists in the Delta area. She quickly discovered she had a real talent in the educational medium.
Eventually Daphna met up with a professional sculptor by the name of Al Aspenwall. “He told me that if I would get together a class of 10 students, he would train me for free,” said Russell. “So I did.” She eventually got back into sculpting with encouragement from a former director of the North Fork Council of Arts and Humanities.
She later was encouraged to move to Cedaredge by a close friend, Jane Tellachea. Russell found a place in Cedaredge to rent, and remained there for 12 years before deciding to buy a home. “I needed a place with room for a studio,” explained Russell.
Inevitably she was approached to do a show in sculpture. “I was afraid [to do the show alone], because I hadn’t developed a following,” she said, “so I asked another lady, from St. Luke’s [Episcopal Church in Delta] to share the show with me.”
Daphna said she knew that if the lady from the church accepted her invitation, then at least some of the members of St. Luke’s parish and the Delta Fine Arts Council would come. As it turned out, the show was successful and Daphna started entering other shows and winning awards for her work.
“That’s how I got stared,” she laughed. In 1986, she made her decision to become a professional sculptor.
For the most part, she only entered shows at the local level. “I was afraid to go outside the area,” she explained. But in 1987, Daphna entered her first juried show.
“That was a real confidence builder,” she noted. As a result, she entered other juried shows, many of which were outside the local area. She also began arranging shows for local artists in Denver, the Four Corners area, Trinidad and Buena Vista.
Her bronze sculptures began to sell, explained Daphna, and sculpturing eventually became self-supporting.
Although her style is, for the most part, semi-abstract, Daphna said she begins by thoroughly researching her subjects. Her first piece is generally realistic, eventually evolving into an abstract that reflects what she believes to be the essence and spirit of her subject. Each piece reflects its individual personality, whether it be a somewhat whimsical or mythical creature, a buffalo (be sure to check out the one on the corner of Fourth and Main in Delta), a horse (Daphna has always loved horses and therefore has sculpted a lot of horses), pigs, human figures, and in an unique and very special way, angels.
Angels are an important part of Daphna’s art. “It occurred to me that we, as artists, should witness who we are through our art, and I wondered how I could do this.
“And it also occurred to me that we could reveal who we are, as Christians.”
In response, Russell began studying angels of the Judeo-Christian tradition “as symbols of the Christ . . . what they are, what they do, and what they should be,” she explained, “. . . including the advent of the female angel.” With respect to the Judeo-Christian tradition, symbolism is important, she added. “We are a religious people, and everything is spiritual.”
It was those angels, both painted and sculpted, that caught a lot of people’s attention. They have been depicted in her sculptures, in her paintings and on greeting cards, and have taken a prominent place in her artwork.
When not volunteering at St. Luke’s, or the food bank, Daphna can be found in her studio in Cedaredge, sculpting. She also teaches classes in sculpting throughout the Western Slope. The major portion of her work is in water-based clay which is sometimes cast in bronze. She is also an accomplished watercolor artist, designer of church banners, art critic, judge and noted author on the arts.
Daphna’s work has been exhibited in galleries and art exhibits across the United States, including Ann Darling Studio, Sarasota, Fla.; Es Possible, Scottsdale, Ariz.; Creamery Arts Center, Hotchkiss; AppleShed Gallery, Cedaredge; Old Pueblo Art Gallery, Tucson, Ariz.; Coldwater Gallery, Ridgway; Schiesser Gallery, Steamboat Springs; and in various exhibits on the main streets of Grand Junction, Montrose, Carbondale, and at the Loveland Sculpture Invitational. Her work has found its way from Sioux Falls, S.D., to Europe.
She is currently one of the featured artists at the Blue Pig Gallery located in Palisade. Her works will be on exhibit through January 2008 at the gallery at 199 W. 3rd Street in Palisade.
“Art is my vocation,” said Daphna. “Body, mind and spirit. I am working at my craft, creating works of art, and I intend to continue my artwork, teaching, entering shows and hosting workshops.”
She concluded, “I am so grateful for Delta County, and for the number of practicing artists in the county, many of whom tend to be individuals, and not just rubber stamps.” blog comments powered by Disqus