This year on the Hernando County arts scene, a single artist claimed both The 37th Annual Art in the Park Judges’ Award for Best of Show and the Mobile Murals People’s Choice Award. The esteemed artist is Clovis Dean Rusk of Spring Hill.
Rusk’s work shone at The 37th Annual Art in the Park, presented March 12 and 13, by the Hernando County Fine Arts Council, along with presenting sponsor Subaru of Port Richey. “I’m humbled and honored to have been awarded Best of Show at Art in the Park this year,” shared Rusk. With his characteristic good humor he added, “I participated twice before, never ranking in an awards category. But once, I did sell a large painting — to my favorite cousin. Does that count?”
Rusk hosted a booth at Art in the Park that showcased his selection of painted oil portraits. “This year’s show almost didn’t happen, but for the dedication of the many volunteers who closely monitored the cold front passing through. The second day was as good as it gets weather-wise, and a great, enthusiastic crowd showed up,” he said of Art in the Park. “After a couple of years of pandemic near-isolation, any and all art lovers ought to bust loose and participate in supporting Hernando’s new wave of vibrant talent. Of course, for every new wave, there’s the old wave, and these dedicated souls are still putting it out there for us all to take in and measure up to. It was an honor to show alongside these great folks.”
And what Rusk showed, judges and the public enjoyed. “My paintings are mostly figurative, and as ‘real’ as I can muster with a brush,” he said. “I’ve never been one who has flair or speed, or could be called flamboyant in my style. Tight and stoic is my artistic demeanor. ‘Dark’ is my native tone.”
Rusk holds a palette filled with inspiration. “My life is so incredibly blessed. My partner — and muse —regularly reminds me after I’ve commenced a painting to include more color, the beauty of nature, and a bright sense of hope into my compositions — just to even things out!” he said.
Rusk draws from a long and diverse history of artistic achievement. “Throughout my schooling, I was always known for my drawing ability. I lucked into a full-ride scholarship and earned a bachelor of fine arts degree, concentrating on photography and painting,” he said. “I then spent the next 35 years chasing the fast-moving train of the digital revolution of desktop publishing. Upon retirement, I consciously chose to go analog and paint old-school oils.”
Allisa Babor, Art in the Park Chair & Hernando County Fine Arts Council Member, praised Rusk’s talent and artistic merit. She stated, “The minute you lay your eyes on his work, you’ll see why he was awarded Best in Show! Clovis (Dean) Rusk has thought-provoking, intriguing artwork. Each painting holds a beautiful story I love hearing over and over again. Dean’s work is unique and his realism is captivating. Dean’s portraits are equal parts realistic and dreamlike. At first glance, his art appears as detailed as a photograph. Upon closer reflection, you realize that Dean’s true gift is his ability to present the subject in a different light far beyond the physical surface, capturing their character and giving viewers a glimpse of who they are. Congratulations to Clovis on his well-deserved Best in Show award.”
Rusk also recently was named the People’s Choice winner of the ‘Tangerine Dreams’ Mobile Murals Project; a presentation of Brooksville Main Street, this is a mobile exhibit that presents a plethora of artworks free of charge for public perusal. Clovis Dean Rusk’s mural “This is Not a Mandarin” was presented at Broad Street Brewing on E Jefferson St. in Brooksville. “The call for entries from the Brooksville Main Street organization prompted my wife to elbow me for the opportunity to promote the arts locally. How could I say no?” he said. “Inspiration for the image was the 1964 painting (on a serving tray, no less) by Rene Magritte, ‘Ceci N’est Pas Une Pomme’ or ‘This is not an apple.’ The surrealist concept is that neither the picture nor the word can be considered the actual apple. And, as such, same with a tangerine.”
“This is Not a Mandarin” is a deeply conceptual piece. “The style is traditional realism, but the words draw the observer into the fray of concepts,” he said. “To further complicate things, tangerine in French is mandarin and classifications of the citrus differ among botanists as to whether a tangerine is indeed a mandarin or an orange.”
Mural painting, Rusk discovered, is a unique and challenging medium. “As with all murals, acrylic paint designed to weather the elements is necessary. This is otherwise known as ‘exterior house paint.’ As a digital pre-press layout artist for many years, I’ve learned to paint using the same simple process colors used for full-color printing: cyan, yellow, magenta and black. I work that way in my oil painting, and am pretty proficient at interpreting the required ratios to approximate a target color.” And this is not the first time that Rusk has tackled a citrus subject. He stated, “I’ve only done a single mural in the past, as a favor for friends. Coincidentally, it was a reproduction of a local citrus grower crate label, enlarged to about 4 by 8 feet.”
Rusk very much enjoyed revisiting the mural format. He shared, “Oils are my favorite medium currently. But I must say, it was much easier painting the mural with house paint than I recalled from when I was an art major using acrylics 45 years ago!” Rusk is proud of his participation in the Mobile Murals project. “I think it’s fabulous ANYTIME an artist is ushered to produce a work,” he said. “After the jury process of the mobile mural project, an artist is assured a funded means of producing an artwork. This community program serves as a great engine for creativity and art production. As the project gains momentum, I anticipate a revenue source for more such projects that integrate the community and emphasize the arts. And what’s even cooler, is nowhere can you purchase such large artworks for so little!” And the artist takes particular interest in his subject. “Florida has multiple personalities. One is as a destination for tourists and the other is as home to communities that take pride in their place,” Rusk said. As a Florida native and one who travels to various favorite Florida towns for their charm and interest, a focus on the arts always serves to bolster the community’s beauty and overall sense of welcome.” Natalie Kahler, Executive Director of Brooksville Main Street, was highly impressed with Rusk’s “Not a Mandarin” mural. Kahler stated, “This was one of our beautiful mobile murals, and really stood out. It reminds us of the Brooksville experience.”