When you hear the phrase “emerging artist,” what do you picture? A paint-splattered twentysomething in a Baker loft? A tattooed poet moonlighting as a barista? Richard Russeth, a successful corporate lawyer, and Stephen Ludwig, a twice-elected University of Colorado Regent, are knocking down those stereotypes—one artwork at a time. Although the two men, who met a few years ago at church, have bigwig day jobs and unlikely hobbies in common, their works provide an illuminating contrast, which will be on display at Emerge Gallery this weekend in an dual exhibit titled Do You Hear What We See?
Ludwig, who describes himself as a visual essayist and began painting only a few months ago, uses striking images, colors, comics, and bits of text to create two-dimensional cultural criticisms that touch on everything from Facebook to CrossFit. Russeth, who was born deaf, is a photographer who aims to capture “the silence we all live in.”
“As a deaf person, I’ve had to figure out what is happening without audible cues, so I sort of developed a sixth sense based on what I could see,” Russeth says. “I’m able to catch the moment in ways other people might not.” At once familiar and ambiguous, his newest collection, In the City, is a haunting, beautiful compilation of people, places, and buildings that subverts traditional street photography.
“We both have really different styles,” Ludwig says. “Richard has this incredibly unique eye, while my work has more of an immediate impact.” However, what’s likely to cause the most buzz around Do You Hear What We See? is the seeming contradiction between Ludwig’s often-brash work and his dignified public persona. “[The exhibit] is about the art itself, but it’s also about making a statement concerning what an elected official can and cannot do, what an elected official can and cannot be,” Ludwig says. “I want to show that I’m fully human—I’m crass, I’m profane, but I’m kind, I’m gentle, and I’m passionate about public service. That’s all of me.”
Details: Do You Hear What We See? will debut at Emerge Gallery Denver at 731 W. 6th Ave. on Friday, September 19, from 5:30 to 9 p.m. You can also see it on Saturday, September 20, 12 to 9 p.m.; Sunday, September 21, 12 to 4 p.m.; Friday, September 26, 5:30 to 9 p.m.; Saturday, September 27, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; or by appointment. A portion of the proceeds will benefit artfromashes.org.