Clifton and Fairfax Station are blessed with more talented individuals per capita than just about any other community their size. Dancers, musicians, actors, writers and artists make their homes in our little patch of heaven and perhaps draw their inspiration from the beautiful countryside. Richard Russo is certainly one of these creative people.
When Russo and his wife Trish began looking for a home in Clifton almost twelve years ago, his main criterion was clear: “I don’t want to see a big house next door when I open the curtains.” Driving to the end of a secluded lane near Hemlock Overlook, he and his wife spotted a house surrounded by acres of woods. It was love at first sight. The next day, they signed a contract, and the house was theirs.
Russo’s art carried him to Virginia from Lawrenceville, New Jersey, where he grew up, and New York City. He graduated from Brooklyn’s acclaimed Pratt Institute, receiving a BFA in Communication Design.
The talented, personable Russo was recruited by Macy’s to design shops and boutiques in all their stores. He began a long, fruitful and innovative career with retail giants like Macy’s, the May Company, and Ralph Lauren, where he was the Creative Director.
After moving to Clifton, Trish Russo convinced her husband to start his own company, Hybridia Design. “I do everything an architect does,” Russo explained, but “I hybrid ideas; I work them into something new and fresh.” His unique, stylish approach to merchandising continues to attract clients like IBM, the Ford Motor Company and Cisco.
Businessman Russo designs by day, and Artist Russo paints by night and on the weekends. His art features homes, landscapes and historic sites in the area. He painted a series of 24 houses and buildings, including ones owned by Vice Mayor Dwayne Nitz, Clifton Café’s Erin Tengesdal and Tom VanBlaricom of Fairfax Station. Places considered landmarks in the town included Trummer’s on Main and Peterson’s Ice Cream Depot. These works were so popular that 21 of them were bought by the property owners. Russo credits them for “putting me into a place where people knew what I was doing.”
After Jane Kincheloe, the visionary behind Paradise Springs Winery, discovered Richard Russo’s paintings, she asked him to paint there on the weekends. His stunning paintings now line the Tasting Room.
Because he believes strongly in supporting the community, Russo generously donates his paintings and time. At events like the Clifton Wine Festival, he sets up a tent, which he calls his portable gallery, and displays his art. For the campaign to Save Clifton Elementary, he contributed several paintings. At the recent Clifton Women’s Club Tour of Homes, he spent the day painting outside the Paradise Springs Winery.
Russo will be featured at two upcoming community events. On Oct. 1, Paradise Springs Winery will present “An Evening with the Artist Richard R Russo" from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.. The Take Four Jazz Quartet will provide live music, and the "First Harvest" collection will be displayed.
Last September, the Kincheloe family invited Russo to the vineyard to help harvest their first grapes. While cheering on the workers, he took more than 40 photographs. He then transformed them into striking paintings of that memorable fall day.
In addition to the “First Harvest” collection, many of his other paintings and drawings will be exhibited. Lucky patrons, randomly chosen, will win 10 framed reproductions, as well as gift certificates which can be used to help commission or pay for a piece of his art.
On Clifton Day, which is scheduled for October 8, Richard Russo plans to present a special gift to the Clifton Betterment Association (CBA), a canvas depicting the festival in 2010. Posters that replicate his original historic paintings also will be sold, and part of the proceeds will be given to the CBA.
Richard Russo considers himself a fortunate man.
Every day, he explained, “I have to paint.” But, he continued, “When you can’t see the line between work and your life, you know you are in the right place.”