International Sculpture Center



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Russ Ellis

2431 Woolsey St
Berkeley, CA 94705, U.S.A.
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Phone: (510) 548-7069

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“The rims of our glasses are further away than the mountains.”

(Maurice Merleau-Ponty)

My artistic footing stabilized around the year 2000, when I decided to sculpt and paint what was wandering into my imagination rather than to “learn to draw.”  I was 65.

Once committed to that decision, I have been astonished by how vigorously “actual” these imagined forms can be. They readily constitute a world.

In recent years my sculpting and painting have responded to goings-on in that world. There it is apparent that forms change and change produces new forms: form changes and change forms.

Emigrant form’s only home is change. Form without change is homeless.  Form is always escaping into the distant invisibility of the familiar and out again*.

In this exhibit, with tools at hand, I wrestle with the restlessness of form. I want my work’s impulse experienced as progressive approximations of forms that insist themselves into and out of our world.

Against the foil of familiar objects, nearly-familiar objects, found and constructed objects, wall works and paintings, I hope to include you in that sense of permanent movement through materials, weight, shape, color, relationship, time and distance that define and vivify the forms roaming through, in, and out of our lives.


*Discussing the taken-for-granted world, Maurice Merleau-Ponty noted that “the rims of our glasses are farther away than the mountains.”  In the last few years, I have been playing with the tension between the form generated and the habits of routine perception.  The absolutely routine can be practically invisible yet inescapably present.  We repeatedly bump into the clearly visible end table recently moved by six inches.  I have some confidence that a sculpture can be especially interesting in the interplay between the familiar and  the distant.


I was born in Los Angeles in 1935. I spent the war years 1941- 46 whittling and designing mud balls on a farm in Fontana, California, in the foothills of Mt. Baldy, called “Rockville” by the locals.  It was an alluvial fan of rounded boulders left by an ancient glacier. We lived at the edge of the wilderness.  Wild animals wandered onto the homestead.  My lullaby at bedtime was the wail of hundreds of coyotes. The San Bernardino and San Gorgonio mountains remain a fundamental feature of my sense of things.
At UCLA, in the 50’s, the artist now known as Judith Greenleaf introduced me to abstract painting.  I fell in love with Kandinsky, for a time. My watercolors were all painted in the 60’s as part of an enthusiasm shared by a group of friends, none of who were or were to become artists. 
Student sculptors Bob (?) Boyce and Joan DeAngelo got my attention at UCLA in the 1960’s.  Later, when I taught at Pitzer College, Carl and Sue Hertel influenced my seeing.
In 1970, I joined the faculty of the Department of Architecture at UC Berkeley as a sociologist dealing with social and cultural issues in architecture and urban design.  (See Architects’ People, Russ Ellis and Dana Cuff, eds, Oxford U. Press, 1989).  Faculty members Jean-Paul Bourdier, Tony Dubovsky, Lars Lerup and Joe Slusky were the colleagues most supportive of my artistic interests.
In 1983, a stone carving workshop conducted by Elaine Rapp had an indelible influence on me.  We worked with Colorado pink alabaster. (The outcome, “Snake Couch,” can be found on my web site).  A back injury ended my stone work & I moved to modeling clay in my retirement.
Save for those stone pieces from which I had molds made, the bronzes in this show were created since 1995.
My renewed enthusiasm for drawing came from trying to see things with my granddaughter  -- Isabella Grace Ellis -–now eleven years old.