Drawing from contemporary media and culture such as reality television, fashion magazines and billboards, as well as her own experiences, Liana Russwurm boldly exposes the vulnerability, sexuality and beauty of women. Through the use of staged photo shoots, props, costumes and make-up, she aims to strip away the layers of the individual, invoking a fragmented yet authentic portrait of her subject. She is most interested in "the figure", and capturing the essence of the model. By focusing on women who question the status quo, she hopes for her work to encourage a discourse that will have an affect on how women are perceived by society, as well as throughout art history.
Born in 1966 into an artistic family in Elmira, Ontario, Liana was always encouraged to be creative and follow her dreams. She has lived in Vancouver and was established at one time in Montreal, as she says, "struggling", taking on different types of work, including working in a glass studio and owning a small glass business.
It was in Montreal that she came to a turning point: "The idea was that once I had more money, I could focus on painting. Years passed and I didn't have time to paint and became very unhappy. That's when I decided I had nothing to lose and quit everything to return to school".
Liana moved to Toronto in 2002 to study at the Ontario College of Art and Design (OCAD), even spending her last year in Florence, where she was inspired by the Italian masters, like Caravaggio; her style is reminiscent of his use of light and dark, and his goals to show physical as well as psychological reality.
While in Italy, Jason Waite, an American curator, complimented her piece Glam Hair in a Hurry (2006) as a "watershed of merging concept and realization... in terms of medium and composition", commenting that her "choice of neutral masks that adhere to the facial form are effective in provoking the idea of make-up as a conduit for a projection of identity, simultaneously hiding and enhancing".
While at school, from 2002 until 2007, her repertoire greatly expanded and Liana's mentor, Michelle White, introduced her to encaustic painting, in which hot wax is combined with pigment and applied to a surface. During this time, she produced pure encaustics (Jessica and Nude), as well as encaustics mixed with other media (Hello Dolly and Oh My Darling). She also employed oils, pastels and charcoals to produce Ce Qui and Behind Closed Doors. She studied alongisde Lorne Toaws and Richard Robertson, who inspired her to work large with her figures. In her third year at OCAD, she was awarded three scholarships for her pieces Puppet, Liana, Jane and Cousins.
Liana's paintings have been displayed at exhibitions such as ARTHAUS in Vancouver, O Remue – Meminges in Montreal and The Art of the Figure, Broke Bastard Mounting, Get It Together and whodun?t in Toronto. She also has pieces in numerous private collections in Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia.
Currently, Liana is focusing her efforts on applying for residencies and art grants, and in the near future, she hopes to gain exposure in the U.S. and Europe. A gallery in Ireland that has displayed her work is planning on promoting her at a show at the Arkhangel Gallery in Listowel, County Kerry. And of course, she will continue to paint. As she said after leaving Montreal to finally devote herself to her painting, "Now, I'll never lose sight of what I really should be doing".
Liana Russwurm will be exhibiting her art at the upcoming WhipperSnapper Gallery on College Street during the first two weeks of September 2007.