Saturday, April 04, 2009

Russell Bay McKlayer

"Render unto Ceasar What is Caesar's: the World Died Screaming"
mixed media on cigar box
Denver artist Russell Bay McKlayer died last month at the age of 48. Russell was one of the founding members of EDGE gallery. His work has always been graphically bold, and editorially direct, loaded social and political content.
Russell's passing is yet another loss to the EDGE family in recent years.  Roger Beltrami died in early 2004. Roger and I exhibited concurrently at EDGE in 2002 just before I ended my six years as an associate member of the gallery and moved to NY.  That occasion gave me an opportunity to get to know Roger better. I didn't have the same opportunity of spending one on one time with  Russell, but I liked him very much, and I appreciated his presence in the group. As it happens, when I was back in Denver last October, I stopped into EDGE on an evening when Russell's most recent opening was being held and we were able to chat briefly. Ken Hamel of posted a few photos of Russell with his work in that exhibit called "I never said that I was brave".  
Here are two images that I snapped of Russell's show:

In my view, both Russell and Roger lent a more pointed, radical nature to the character of EDGE as an entity and the losses of both remarkable individuals in relatively short order is profound.

In 2005 I organized an exchange show between the members of EDGE and a group of artists from Beacon NY. The concept of the show revolved around work that would fit into a standard flat rate USPS priority mailing box. The work of the Denver artists was on exhibit at Spire Studios here in Beacon. The image at the top shows Russell's contribution to the show.  The work is paint and collage on a wooden cigar box which fit into the mailing box in its folded position and when opened, expanded into a vertical diptych.
My thoughts go out to Russell's family and friends.

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