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How a West Phoenix Artist Turned His Yard Right into a DIY Sculpture Park



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Don Russell wasn’t positive whether or not to name himself a visible artist.

“I simply weld junk collectively,” he defined final week. “It’s visible and it’s artwork, so perhaps I’m a visible artist.”

He’s by no means labored in what he referred to as “the artwork world.” In 2013, Russell purchased three outdated homes on 22nd Avenue close to Adams Road from his mom and stepfather and started filling the entrance and facet yards with massive, 3-D art work.

“Most of it’s in two of the yards,” he mentioned, “as a result of on the third home they park their vehicles within the yard. As soon as I’ve extra sculptures, I’ll must put them someplace else.”

His sculptures are a passion, mentioned Russell, who’s 62 and moved right here from Montana within the late ’60s. “I began welding outdated iron collectively, making sculptures as a type of self-help remedy after my sons Devan and Ramsey died. I needed to do one thing inventive in remembrance of them.”

He doesn’t like to speak in regards to the particulars of his sons’ deaths. He signed every bit “DR Dwell,” which he mentioned is brief for “Devan and Ramsey Dwell via artwork.”

“They died a very long time in the past,” Russell mentioned of his boys. “One among them in 1995, the opposite in 1996. It was powerful instances, however, yeah, you get via it. Proper?”

Russell, who mentioned he solely makes use of recycled supplies in constructing his sculptures, preferred to joke that he had an iron deficiency.

“I take advantage of quite a lot of metallic,” he mentioned. “Each piece had a earlier life as one thing else. A few of these outdated plows, the individuals who pulled these are useless and gone, however the powerful iron lives on.”

His sculpture referred to as Pot Head was impressed by pro-marijuana Proposition 207; Plow Chook is comprised of outdated farm gear, its wings two cross-cut noticed blades. There’s an American flag constructed from patinaed sheet metallic, and Fireplace Hydrant, which depicts a hydrant peeing on a canine. Alieon is an extraterrestrial, its legs comprised of automotive headers, its toes from soil excavator enamel.

“He eats cans and recycles them by crapping out forks,” Russell defined.

The sculptures have multilayered which means. “The one I name The Prick is a quintuple entendre,” he mentioned. “He’s a cactus driving a 1928 Buick, so he seems like a imply man. He’s tall like a prick, and should you contact him, you get pricked. He’s made by a prick, and I’ll allow you to guess the fifth one.”

He thinks his tenants like his sculptures. “They appear to, or they faux to,” he mentioned with fun. “Having sculptures in your yard is a situation of residing there. However we deal with them proper with good hire and good service.”

Sometimes, a sculpture is vandalized. Screaming Eagle, a large chicken, bought knocked over final yr by a driver fleeing the police. Politics is Such Crap, which depicts a person sitting on a bathroom studying the newspaper, had been abused by passersby.

Russell hopes at some point his outside exhibit can be a part of Phoenix’s artwork and tradition scene. “I hoped it could possibly be a drive-by artwork park form of factor,” he mentioned. “Possibly a part of that First Friday artwork tour factor.”

He thinks of his artwork backyard as a form of neighborhood venture. He affords low-cost housing to lower-income individuals, and artwork to uplift what he referred to as “a tough neighborhood.”

Individuals usually stopped by one of many homes to precise appreciation, Russell mentioned. “Possibly they’re stoned after they say these good issues. I don’t know. My mom says it’s a bunch of junk that I have to haul to the dump, however that’s okay. She’s coming round.”

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