We have been very fortunate to have been given an opportunity to work with the artists and folks from the The Forgotten Goddess to create their brand identity and website. The Forgotten Goddess understood they were working with very talented,young, eager students here at California State University, Northridge. They not only provided our students an opportunity to be part of a great project, but unlike any other client, they guided us, directed us, and, yes, often provided resources to us to make this project very successful. Yes, we did have some bumps on the road, but as Russelle reminded the students, “The best thing about creating art though is sharing yourself with others and making a connection…” So,we decided, as part of the gallery section of the website, to share with viewers and artists some of the processes of the project, in which we hope to communicate that it really the process that leads to discovery and solutions which make artists so unique and special. Please enjoy this section, and I encourage all viewers to check back to this gallery section as it may reveal artists who are waiting to be discovered.
To TheForgotten Goddess team, on behalf of the Center for Visual Communication (VISCOM), from California State University, Northridge…THANK YOU!
The Forgotten Goddesses of Russelle Westbrook
Artist Russelle Westbrook of California is creating beautiful pieces of feminine art. Her website “The Forgotten Goddesses” is a splendor of color, imagination, and magick. I had the opportunity to speak with Ms. Westbrook recently about the wonder of her work.
How did you discover your talent for art?
R: Although it was in my genes (there were many professional artists in the family) I did not know it myself until a teacher in fifth or sixth grade took me under his wing and convinced me I had talent. I later got accepted to Parson’s School of Design and majored in Communications – not a good fit!
How did you get started as a professional artist?
R: I taught myself to paint when I moved to California in 1987 and had a body of work and a gallery show within a year. My work was completely different back then; I was still making “observations” but my technique was different and my knowledge of anatomy was abysmal. I started doing portraits as gifts and women started to find my by word of mouth. In 2004 my life and my style changed quite dramatically and is, as you see it, today.
Do you work from life, photographs, or your imagination?
R: All three. It depends on what I am painting. I work from photographs when I am working on a portrait and whatever reference family members send me. When I paint “for myself”, I use my imagination, I work outside for landscape reference, and use the work of my favorite painters for reference as well – say, if I need a hand facing a certain way. I also use objects in my own home, including quite frequently my Grandmothers ring.
What techniques do you use? What mediums do you work in?
R: I have no idea what technique I use, but a teacher once described my work as “magical realism”. I work exclusively in oils. I use glazes and fan brushes to rid my work of any brush strokes. Some of my paint brushes have three or four hairs on them as I am very detail oriented. I’m not sure why I cannot abide brush strokes in my own work – I certainly admire the use of them in the work of many other artists.
What do you feel is more important – content or technique?
R: I am always trying to become a better painter and I take reference from everywhere. However, content is always more important to me. In my own work there are messages and symbols all over the place. Whether or not the viewer is aware of all of them does not matter – I am, and there is enough content in my work so that most women pick up on a lot intuitively and emotionally.
What do you feel the role of an artist is in society?
R: To be quite honest, I have only recently realized that I had something to share with the world through my art. I believe that each artist must decide whether or not they feel the need to contribute, or not. We ultimately paint for ourselves, and only the individual can decide whether or not he/she needs to, or feels the need to, play a “role in society”, i.e. to affect change, to document.
Your work focuses on women, goddess, and the Divine Feminine. How do you feel your subject matter reflects/affects society?
R: I know my work has a profound affect on women for which I am incredibly grateful. As mentioned, women really respond on an emotional level to my work and are not at all put off by the wounds and the scars. Women seem to instinctively understand that I am painting from the inside out. As a woman living in a Patriarchal society, I am fascinated by the way most women, myself included, subjugate themselves without even knowing it, in almost all avenues of their lives, but especially in regards to their relationships. I am also fascinated by the differences in how women and men deal with matters of the heart. Grief. Anger. Wounding, past and present. Of interest, is that my male friends appreciate the visual imagery in my work almost exclusively, but are most often puzzled and/or frightened by the wounds. These differences fascinate me also.
Much of your work feels very personal, and evokes emotional responses in the audience. What inspires you to create, and how much of yourself is in each painting?
R: Everything in the work I have created since 2004 is about me. Each was created by my hand. Each bears my symbol. Every brush stroke contains a piece of my heart. Every painting is the direct result of my own life force, my questions, my angst, my sense of beauty, my processing of my own emotions. Every painting also contains elements of both life and death, light and dark, as I am fascinated by the way we manage to live with both every day. The world is truly a fascinating place.
Ms. Westbrook also works on commission, in addition to helping children find their artistic talents. Visit her website at http://russellebluerose.com