Tonight I am mourning the death of Russell Sutherland, a good friend of
mine since 2003, who died at his computer last night. Russell had struggled
with many, many medical issues, and was in pain and bad shape, limiting the
time he could physically work with his hands to create his origami art.
Russell had a lot against him, from poverty to lost nerves (thoracic), but
always looked forward to a time where he could be an Artist-in-Residence,
doing his origami and sharing the art with others.
Russell was there for me in some very personal struggles, and I helped him
when I could. His conflicts and struggles with others dwarfed mine, but his
were much higher stakes, from fighting for basic finances and living
conditions to struggling to retain his identity as an artist as others
sometimes took credit for the work.
This made Russ exceedingly upset, and, I fear, his outbursts reflected
poorly on him to those who didn't understand the level of his pain and his
convictions and how much he was a part of the work and relationships that
Regardless, over the past few years, Russell never hesitated to contact me
to see how *I* was doing. In reviewing our conversations and logs, I see so
many times where he was enduring severe pain and life stress, and yet still
produced his art and listened. And despite my own complaining and middling
issues, Russ followed my tiny struggles and always, always opened and
closed our conversations with "remember that you can always call me to
I'll miss you, Russ - wish I'd picked up the phone more and pissed and
I feel some guilt at this unexpected news- like I didn't do more to reach out to him; or recognize that he might have been reaching out to me for help, some guidance, support, or just a friendly ear.
We hadn't communicated in some time; but on FB in September of 2011, he messaged me through FB chat, out of the blue. In reflection of our conversation, I believe he was reaching out in need of someone to talk to- downplaying the rough times he was going through; yet needing to share for some moral support from someone who would listen. I now feel guilt that I did not listen more carefully to all that was going on with him. I could sense he was troubled even as he tried to "put on a good face" and stay positive in our chat.
I first met Russell at OUSA in NYC. The following are from OUSA in 2005:
|Hyperbolic Paraba "Lloyd"|
One-of-a-kind piece, Created and Folded by Russell Sutherland
Exhibited at OUSA 2005 and given to me as a gift.
More of Russell's fantastic artwork can be found at his site.