JK Russ: States Project: Nevada
I met JK Russ at the 2014 art and music festival Life is Beautiful. Our installations were adjacent to one another, and I had the fortunate opportunity to see her in action, orchestrating her interactive collage project Nature as Inspiration with people of all ages. I was even more intrigued when I went to The Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas to see her project House of Paper Birds, a collaborative collage at the P3 Studio created during her artist in residency. What really fascinated me about both projects was the simplicity of the origins of the elements- photographic images from magazines, for example, and the transformations in the art that took place.
Stills from the Neo-Romance video project featured below are constructed from photographs of burlesque performers, which are then digitally overlaid onto contemporary urban landscapes of Nevada. Again, a transformation takes place by combining these two elements, raising a myriad of questions that examines the unique culture of entertainment. In addition to being presented as a video project, JK chose select still images from the video Neo-Romance to be presented as photographs.
Originally from New Zealand, JK Russ relocated to Las Vegas in 2010. Since graduating with a Bachelor of Visual Arts from MIT Faculty of Creative Arts where she majored in photography, Russ has maintained an interest in representations of performance. Her recent mixed media and photographic composite works combine performance and fashion elements, along with desert creatures and rock formations. Her work is featured in the Las Vegas episode of The Ethical Hedonist produced for the Travel Channel UK, in VEGAS magazine’s Art of the City edition, and in UNLV’s Marjorie Barrick Museum show “Kveck, Russ & Stellmon: Breaks Ups and Tear Downs”, (Oct 23 – Jan 23, 2016). Russ is also known for creating interactive collage projects for the Life is Beautiful festival, the London Biennale Pollination performance event and during her recent P3Studio artist residency at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, in partnership with New York’s Art Production Fund. In her spare time, she blogs for Huffington Post Arts & Culture. Russ is represented by Sin City Gallery in Las Vegas, NV, Zoya Tommy Contemporary in Houston, TX and PAULNACHE in Gisborne, New Zealand.
Las Vegas is truly a city of hidden treasures. I make regular visits to the Strip to revel in its glittering spectacle, but I also like to frequent the more obscure downtown performance venues where you might find burlesque, or live body painting, or an Elvis look-alike contest. I gain much inspiration from the strong performance scene here, and I can see the potential for more interaction with the art scene.
The desert environment surrounding the city also fascinates me, offering such a contrast to the dense green native forest of New Zealand. Some of my favorite day trip destinations are Red Rock Canyon, Valley of Fire, Michael Heizer’s Double Negative land art and the nearby St Thomas ruins, now exposed by the retreating waters of Lake Mead.
The Neo-Romance series plays off the late-nineteenth-century art movement romanticizing historic rural landscapes, suggesting there is a potential romantic idyll in the contemporary urban landscapes of Nevada. Combining photography with moving image, these images juxtapose still images of burlesque performers transposed into urban landscapes, with glowing backgrounds of animated casino lights.
The featured performers are Roxy Rouge, Janell Burgess, Lou Lou Roxy, Staysha Randall, Ivana Blaize, Miss Charlamay, Dezie, Lastarza & Lashonza, Shelbi Schroeder, Cathy C Lui, Kitschy Koo and Tarah Una. With special thanks to Mina Kahn, Devi Amuro and The Burly-Q Revue.
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