We had the good fortune of connecting with Stacy Russo and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Stacy, what role has risk played in your life or career?
The other day I came across a comment on Instagram in response to a story about an adventuresome woman who passed away. It read, “Some people exist. This woman lived.” I found this incredibly inspiring and moving. It speaks to one’s capacity for taking risks in life. Risk is a big topic. There are many times in life where we can take a risk or back away. This may be having a difficult conversation with someone, taking a chance on a relationship after struggling through a hard time, changing a career, or taking a class that intimidates us. As an artist and writer, risk is everywhere in my life. Putting something out into the world takes courage. It’s impossible that what you create is going to be well-received by everyone. Something like art is very subjective, so it takes an enormous amount of courage for many of us to submit our work for consideration for an art show or to send a book proposal out to publishers. Then, if the book is published or the art show goes on, you are called upon again to take a further risk by revealing what you created to the public, including critics. Risk-taking is integral to being a creative person. When you take a risk, you are embracing uncertainty – not an easy thing to do – and moving away from fear. Having said all of this, I wouldn’t feel okay concluding without mentioning that there are some realities that can impact one’s ability to take a big risk. Racism is real. Age discrimination is real. Various other forms of injustice are real. And income insecurity is real. Something that may seem like a mid-range risk could be an enormous risk for another individual without a safety net. It’s important to be aware of this, because the level of someone’s privilege may determine how much they can risk.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I’m committed to creating art and books for a more peaceful world. Everything I do is rooted in a daily practice I call LOVE ACTIVISM, which is a radical form of kindness in the form of love for ourselves, community, all living beings, and the earth. I believe in lifelong learning, the power of personal story, peaceful living, and the healing force of creativity we all have within us. My early experiences with art were in the 1980s punk rock scene in Southern California. Along with my friends, we used cut and paste methods to create fanzines, which are small self-published magazines, pamphlets, or booklets. I learned about experimentation, social justice, and DIY ethics all from punk rock, which is pretty amazing! Those early years in the punk rock scene led to my lifelong interest in collage and mixed media art.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
There is so much to do in Southern California, so this is hard! I would want to show them Sunset Beach. We could go to LACMA, which is my favorite spot to uplift my spirits. We would need to go to some of my favorite bookstores: Bookman, Skylight Books, Hennessey + Ingalls, and Book Soup. We could visit the Feminist Library on Wheels at the Women’s Center for Creative Work. Checking out a literary event at Beyond Baroque in Venice and then having dinner at the fabulous Cafe Gratitude, also in Venice, would be a great day! We could have a drink at The Quill, one of the oldest dive bars in Orange County and stop for dinner at the wonderful Mead’s Green Door in Orange. And, of course, we would need to spend time in beautiful Downtown Santa Ana. A hidden gem there is an amazing bookstore and literary gathering place, LibroMobile, founded by the phenomenal Sarah Rafael García.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My family of origin (my mom, dad, and brother) gets the biggest shoutout, because the unconditional love and support they gave me, even when I messed up big time, is a foundation I can continue to pull from now that they live in the spirit world. My partner of several years, Steven Soto, provides me much support and encouragement. In high school (Troy High School), I had an amazing English teacher named Mr. Brenner. At the time I wasn’t aware of how much I learned from him and how the books he introduced me to would open a whole new world and allow me to be successful. Later in college I had so many wonderful experiences due to the amazing professors I was fortunate to have. One who was especially influential was the activist poet June Jordan. Being in her classroom at UC Berkeley was transformational. The writers Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Mary Oliver, Thich Nhat Hanh, and bell hooks have all influenced my life and work. There are so many others I could mention. My heart is full of gratitude for the beautiful people I’ve had the opportunity to know, even if only briefly.
Other: https://www.amazon.com/Stacy-Russo/e/B001JRRHT0 https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7860567.Stacy_Russo
The image of me with my two dogs was taken by Steven Soto. Please give him credit if you use the photo. The other images are scans of my original art, so no credit is needed.