RUSSELL MEHLMAN: ABOUT THE ARTIST

I started painting in 1976 at age 30. In 1993 I began submitting work to local and national Juried shows. Since then I’ve won many awards (see Exhibitions page), and have and do exhibit in Galleries and Museums throughout the United States.

As a painter I am self-taught. I did go to the High School of Art & Design in Manhattan but I majored in Theater Arts. The other courses offered just didn’t interest me.

Actually theater arts didn’t interest me either. Though in the early 1980s I studied acting, and even had a part in an Off-Off-Broadway Play. Might have stayed with it, but I also stutter and just couldn’t work through it as others have. But it was a wonderful experience, and what I learned seems to, I feel, infuse my art today.

After high school I majored in advertising art at NYC Community College, graduating in 1965, began working in Advertising, and after a several years became an Art Director.

In 1972, my brother Sid (also in Advertising) and I started our own Mail Order Company, selling The Guinness Book of World Records using a photo of the “heaviest human on record”. It was a phenomenal success. We sold so many Guinness Books I think we even made it into the book, but I’m not 100% sure of that; it was a long time ago.

Anyway, we began selling other novelty type books, and soon started to create, develop, and publish titles of our own, including: Very Special People: The Struggles, Loves and Triumphs of Human Oddities (about famous Sideshow personalities of the past), How to Meditate Without Attending a TM Class, and The Toys of Sex. As we thought it would be, the Best Seller was Very Special People.

We also tried some non-book products. But like the books, some sold well, and some didn’t. It was all very entrepreneurial, and eventually we ran out of money and good ideas.

Also around this time, 1978, my brother and I opened one of the first art galleries in Chelsea, the Roy G. Biv Gallery. Our first show was "The Artist's of Chelsea," and we even had some “name” artists in it, and it was a great show, and we had a few more good shows, but few sales. We had no background in the field, no contacts, or customer base, just chutzpa, and terrific gallery space in the building we owned on W. 19th St. Anyway, Chelsea wasn't the art center it is today and we lasted about 6 months.

From 1977 to 1986 we worked for Barnes & Noble Bookstores in their new Direct Response Division, I as Creative Director, and Sid as Managing Director.

From 1980 to 1992, for various reasons, I was unable to do much painting. And what I did do I wasn't that happy with. But my work from 1993 to the present I am very happy with. And it's mostly this work you see in my 2 galleries.