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Legacy Russell: Creating a Legacy All Her Own

Legacy Russell: Creating a Legacy All Her Own

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Legacy Russell is many things, but she is most certainly a woman on a mission. As an artist, performer, writer and street style star she is creating a name for herself in the international performance industry, and hoping to create a legacy that goes far beyond her name.

Originally of an East Village upbringing in New York City, she now calls both London and the Big Apple her home, London being the hub for her writing and academic work, and the US showcasing her performances and exhibitions. Having both sides to her artistic sensibility allows her to always remain “critical, thinking, aware, and walking around the issues that I look to explore with the work that I do.” And while she does not claim to necessarily be an old soul, much of this ongoing work focuses on the past, and her personal history.

“I peer backwards so as to understand the foundation for what I see presently before me,” Russell explains, describing this as her form of “field work.”

Her romantic past is even the basis of her latest artistic work in New York City’s Field Projects, entitled DIRTY TALK | CLEAN FOOD. It focuses on the juxtaposition of dining and romance, and is the result of Russell’s time in London as a recently single woman a few years ago.

“I ended up going on outings with people and thinking to myself how amazing it was that the act of eating – the ritual of the dinner – was so essential to foreplay and the progression of intimacy between two strangers on a date. Why is that? And how can the presence of food within acts of romance be both grotesque and gorgeous all at
once? That’s what the piece is about.”

Finding a balance between unique and often conflicting lifestyles, world topics and even international cities has become almost second nature for the world traveler. She is a bit of a renaissance woman at that, involved in producing academia and written work as well as artistic exhibitions. This tendency towards a diverse life focus started with her family background, with a mother from Harlem and a father from Hawaii, but is also obvious in many avenues of her current day-to-day life.

Her style, for example, is “a little bit Frida Khalo tropical […] meets the harder edge of New York.” Her mother is still her style icon, and she counts a wide variety of designers as friends and out of the way shops across the globe as her favorite places to find the perfect piece.

“I’d say that some of favorite day-to-day finds haven’t been in stores but rather been in markets during my travels – in Florence, in Spain, in New York, in London, and beyond.”

She still has a few places she’d like to go yet, including India and the home of artist Henry Darger in Chicago, and would also like to eventually make writing a longer book part of her work schedule. Until then, Russell is producing at least one large commission per year while in London. These commissions could be on any number of topics, and Russell enjoys having the flexibility of pursuing many projects at once, as they allow her to look at even the smallest of daily life actions as inspiration.

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“I also occasionally make smaller pieces that end up often being snapshots [or] windows into larger projects. I’d say the ritualized habitual is my primary influence or inspiration – the banal things we do everyday that typically get taken for granted or lost in the shuffle yet when amplified really do say a lot about who we are and what we believe in,” she explains. “Those actions, behaviors, movements – those things are most attractive to me, and often tell the best stories.”

As both a storyteller and artist, she counts Carter Cleveland and Sebastian Cwilich, the CEO and COO respectively of and author, curator, and historian Sarah Lewis as her icons, but some might be surprised to know that she’s not a natural performer herself. A self-described “shy” person who says she “shakes like a leaf” before a performance, Russell has to go with her gut when she chooses projects to take, even if they are challenges.

“I don’t listen to anyone else or anything else but my gut instincts. […] I work hard to react to those instincts, and to follow them. So far, so good.”

Good is an understatement for this artist, and if she keeps going with her gut, the world will surely have a lot more of Legacy Russell to look forward to.

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