Russell Smith

1961: B.A., Denver University - History

1963: M.A., University of Washington - English 

1964-65 - Denver University Law School

COLORADO

1965 - 1970: Taught English Literature and Creative Writing, Metropolitan State College, Denver.

1968: Turned on.

1969: Tuned in.

1970: Dropped out.

1970 - 1973: Rocky Mountain High.  Living on an isolated mining claim at 8,500 ft. in the Rampart Range west of Colorado Springs, I did my best to devolve into a 3rd world subsistence farmer.  (It was here I learned to weld).  Realizing that if everyone went back to the land in this fashion not a tree would be left, the vision shifted to urban homesteading with its sharing of resources.

MONTANA

1974:  Returning to my hometown of Missoula to join its very aggressive counterculture, by the mid 1975 I was a full time artist growing vegetables in the front yard and making a living, of sorts,  doing the many craft shows that were so popular in those years.  While decorative torch-cut containers were my bread and butter,  I did a lot of drawing, cast bronze jewelry and fabricated all manner of little machines, including the first gun cars.  Some highlights from the Missoula years include: 

1975:  Drew a 12 month calendar, commissioned by the 1st National Bank of Missoula.

1976:  Solo Show of drawings and sculpture, Warehouse Gallery.

1977:  Solo Show of cast bronze jewlery, Magic Mushroom Gallery.

1978:  Mobile, Lobby, KPAC TV Studio

1978:  Playground Piece. 5’ x 14’  Steel Tube, filigreed by acetylene torch, commissioned by “Missoula Tomorrow.”  Permanent installation, Fort Missoula Museum. 

1978:  Designed and cut 100 Flower Baskets from 55 gallon drums, each one unique, commissioned by Missoula Downtown Business Association.  (Another 20 were added in 1984 to replace those that had been stolen).  Maintained by the city and filled with flowers each spring, 37 years later these baskets are still the symbol of Downtown Missoula.  

1979:  Started the “Guilded Lily Lunch Club”, a monthly gathering of artists and counterculture entrenepeuers. This evolved into the current Montana Small Business Association.

1979: Drew “Mosquito Madness”, 5 page comic strip satirizing the downtown counterculture.  Missoula Comix, No.1, Vol. 1.

1980:  By the end of the 70’s I had participated in every major art fair in the state.  SinceMontana had a population of less than 800 thousand, it could be said that most everybody that wanted one, had one.  It was time to expand my market, and escaping the winter, I signed up for art shows in Arizona and California and hit the road.

CALIFORNIA

1980, Los Angeles:  On my first day in Los Angeles, set up beside me in a mall show in Van Nuys, was the water color artist Edie Wellington and not long after I sold my house in Montana and moved to Venice to be with her.  Together we continued to do art fairs for the next several years, most notably the “Affaire in the Gardens” held twice yearly in Beverly Hillsand the bi-annual Westwood Street Fair.

Several galleries represented my work during these years.  The Price of His Toys on Little Santa Monica, Rituals on La Cienega, and Deluxe on Melrose.

1982: Publication, “Gun Cars” by Michael Durr.  Guns and Ammo, 1982 Annual.  Since 1976 my seriousartwork had been series of “gun cars.”  Embodying the macho spirit of Montana and the shade tree mechanic, these functional sculptures were hotrods built around a variety of firearms.  By 1982 I had made 10 of them and they caught the attention of a feature writer for Guns and Ammo.  (Motor Trend also printed a small article that same year entitled “Another Kind of HotRod.” )

1984:  The art and craft show boom had pretty much ended.  Foreign crafts and cheap prints flooded the market.  After 14 years of self employment it was time for me to get a job.

1985 - 1989:  Service Manager, Park LaBrea Apartments.  The IBM PC was taking over the infant personal computer market and just as I had become a self-taught welder and artist, I became a self-taught database programmer.

1989 - 1991:  Network Administrator, Capitol Records.

1991 - 2000:  Business Analyst, VB Programmer, 20th Century Fox, Century City.  Working solo I designed and supported small boutique databases to track project costs and various aspects of video sales.  In my spare time I was able to do the kind of labor intensive, complex and time consuming artwork that I most enjoy, including a series of articulated dolls and the last gun car.

2000: Retired from Fox.  Travelled extensively for several years.

2005 - 2010: Counter Manager, EagleRider Motorcycles.  (We rented Harleys to Europeans to ride Route 66.)

2011:  Left EagleRider.

2012:  All of the remaining gun cars were sold to a collector in Beverly Hills.

2012:  Financially encouraged by the sale of the guncars and awash in the free time of retirement, I was blessed with the vision of a series of mechanical sculptures driven by 100 year old phonograph motors.  In the past 36 months I have produced 18 Windups, certainly the most coherent series of my varied artistic career.

2014: Publication, “A Sculptural Pet”, The Anvil’s Ring, Summer 2014.  This tells the story of an 18” articulated gorilla that refused to be automated.

2015:  Windup Series, part of the Group Show, “iMove”, Lois Lambert Gallery, Gallery of Functional Art, Bergamont Station, Santa Monica.  September 12 through November 3, 2015.