An artist whose work deals mainly with iconic people, Santa Barbara resident Russell Young is using his images of famous individuals to support Direct Relief during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Through Taglialatella Galleries, one the primary galleries in which he exhibits with locations in New York City, Palm Beach, Paris, and Toronto, Mr. Young is participating in its charitable campaign Art for Relief by selling three silkscreen prints of The Rolling Stones icons Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, with 10% of the money raised going directly to the local nonprofit.
Through Art for Relief, artists who pair with Taglialatella Galleries set up their own charitable campaigns with artworks they’d like to sell and select a charity to support. Due to the subjects of the pieces he’s selling, Mr. Young named his campaign “Start Me Up” after The Rolling Stones’ 1981 hit song. In an interview with the News-Press, the British-born artist said Taglialatella Galleries supports many charitable causes and frequently asks him to donate. As the full effects of the COVID-19 crisis started to be felt, Mr. Young agreed that now was the perfect time for him to participate in its philanthropic efforts.
“They’re very generous people, to start with. When they said they needed to do something special in this time, I said, ‘Absolutely, yes,’” he recalled.
The artist added that now is the perfect time to get involved with raising money for Direct Relief because the charity he normally works with, The Art of Elysium, has ceased its regular activities. Under normal circumstances, the nonprofit has its artist volunteers hold art workshops at hospitals for its child patients, some who are terminally ill. Of course, the social distancing demanded during the COVID-19 pandemic renders this impossible for the time being.
Art for Relief allows its participating artists to decide which charity they want to support, so Mr. Young sought advice around Santa Barbara regarding which organization was best to support amid the coronavirus situation. Most of the replies he got named Direct Relief, and Mr. Young decided they’d be a good choice because they don’t let petty politics get in the way of doing good.
“They don’t really worry about politics. They just get on with life and helping people, which is refreshing,” he said.
Other artists participating in Art for Relief include Mr. Brainwash and Joe Iurato. According to Mr. Young, the two have each raised around $10,000 and he has a goal to raise at least as much as they have. The three pieces with which he hopes to raise this sum include a silkscreen print of Mr. Jagger going for $9,500, another print of the singer with diamond dust going for $14,750, and a diamond dust print of Mr. Richards going for $17,000.
Though his body of work depicts a range of famous people that includes Hollywood icons like Clint Eastwood and Marilyn Monroe, Mr. Young’s printings of The Rolling Stones members represent a continuation of a long career he had capturing rock and roll stars in photographs. He got his big break as a photographer when he shot the album cover of singer George Michael’s 1987 record “Faith,” and continued his career photographing legendary artists like Bruce Springsteen, The Smiths, Bob Dylan, REM, and Diana Ross. Throughout the ‘90s, he specialized in helming music videos, directing over 100.
Come the 2000s, Mr. Young started the practice of screenprinting, a process of pulling ink through a screen that he likened to the technique of putting a design on a T-shirt. While discussing his career, Mr. Young told the News-Press that his work conveys “fame and shame,” the latter of which he put on full display with “Pig Portraits,” an exhibition he did in Los Angeles during the early 2000s. Featuring silkscreen prints of iconic individuals’ mugshots, Mr. Young envisioned the exhibit as the flipside of the work he did in the previous decade. Whereas as a photographer and music video director he made his subjects look more beautiful than they really were, with “Pig Portraits” he was showing them at low points. The exhibition also featured a technique the artist has continued to this day, using diamond dust to enhance his prints.
Mr. Young said of this method, “It adds a layer of glamor. It adds a tactile, three-dimensional aspect to the painting.”
As he and other artists sell their works through Art for Relief, Mr. Young hopes the campaign will accomplish a twin goal of financially supporting both anti-coronavirus efforts and the participating artists. After all, many have found their business impacted amid the health crisis and the physical galleries they maintain are expensive pieces of real estate. The artist remarked that when he first heard about Art for Relief, it immediately seemed like a win-win endeavor that would help everyone involved.
“It was very easy to say yes and it seemed to benefit everybody,” Mr. Young