October 14, 2019
Artist: Russ KramerTitle: “Heavy Weather Start: America’s Cup 1893”Size: 27” x 43”Medium: Oil on CanvasWebsite: www.russkramer.com
Visiting Russ Kramer at his gallery was an experience that I won’t easily forget. Typically, interviews happen in the quiet lunchroom, with white walls and little else but conversation to pass the time. This was the complete opposite. Pictures hung from wall to wall, with a partition down the middle of the room to incorporate even more hanging space into the private gallery, located above a small art and framing shop in Mystic, CT. From the moment I arrived, right though our time together, people passed though, customers called on the phone and business carried on. The energy was palpable.
In contrast to his work, which is extreme by the nature of the content, Russ exudes a casual, friendly persona. The work is methodical, labor intensive and heavily researched, but balanced beautifully by his personality and a devotion for his art. Russ spent his life navigating the east coast of America, from Long Island Sound, to Florida, and back up to Connecticut. The lure of the wide ocean and its human navigators throughout time has provided all the inspiration necessary to maintain a comprehensive art practice.
It’s the drama that pulls you in. Climaxing waves, boats leaning to their capacity, and a spiffy looking crew fighting for honor and a chance to defend the oldest international sporting trophy, known as the America’s Cup. Each painting is a heightened moment, true to its era. Historical fiction in a painting, if you will. Russ communicates beautifully his visions of a glamorous past. It is in fact the perfect reason for a painting, but his process is not for the lighthearted casual painter. Russ spends time looking at the static boat models at the museum and studying blueprints, all in order to create his own low-tech model. This makes it possible to discover new points of view and angles perfect for the characters that ultimately bring them to life. Models, sketches, photography and a little Photoshop magic make all the research come together. This enhances the drama of each piece to its maximum potential. By the time paint actually touches his canvas, it will have already been months of preparation. But the skill doesn’t end here. The true delight is in his painting, seeing a vibrant aquatic world appear before the viewers eyes.
Though I found many different ways to access Russ’s work, it’s the emotion behind the painting that holds my interest. With a little time to myself while customers engaged Russ, I found my curiosity growing as I wondered about his connections to the characters he created. I went on to find out that many are designed from actual historical figures. But I still wanted to know how he felt towards them and why he chose such specific expressions for their faces. Who were the leaders, the scaredy cats, the drama queens? I suppose it’s the thing that an artist can only lead you towards, but it’s ultimately up to the viewer to decipher on their own. The magic of the artwork that keeps you looking and wondering.
Russ Kramer’s work is an opportunity to step out of your own world and travel back in time to the gilded age, when outfits seemed more like costumes and luxury yachting was a lifestyle. Though Russ has been a customer at Wholesale Frame for nearly ten years, I was grateful for the opportunity to spend an afternoon exploring his work a bit deeper in the scenic town of Mystic, CT.
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