Acrylic paint and ox blood on canvas.
Malin Gallery is pleased to announce representation of Philadelphia artist Russell Craig. Craig, a self-taught artist, works with a variety of media, notably for his large-scale realistic portraits of formerly incarcerated individuals.
Craig taught himself to draw during a seven-year period of incarceration for a non-violent drug offense. Craig created his first drawings with a ballpoint pen that was part of his indigent kit. When he acquired a graphite pencil, he was able to build upon his foundation in line drawing, excelling at portraiture to the point where other inmates would commission portraits of their loved ones from him. He saved money from his commissions to purchase new art supplies, mastering pastel crayons and, later, acrylic paint. Craig notes the importance of his mentor, James Huff, in encouraging him as an artist. Huff, whom Craig met in prison, was a portraitist whose decades-long period of incarceration had begun when he was a teenager.
After his release, Craig joined The Guild, a Mural Arts Philadelphia program that provides paid apprenticeships for formerly incarcerated persons. Guild apprentices are trained in such fields as carpentry, mural painting and repair, and mosaic tiling. As they acquire specialized job skills, they also collaborate with others who have similar experiences, and learn to reconnect with their communities. Jane Golden, Mural Arts' executive director, recognized Craig as “clearly somebody who had remarkable talent.” Craig now serves as a teaching artist for the Program, working with currently incarcerated or recently released people to teach art history and painting.
He was one of the inaugural fellows for Right of Return, a program of the Open Philanthropy Foundation awarding formerly incarcerated artists $20,000 for a project addressing mass incarceration. He has also worked on Voices, a mural arts project within the Restorative Justice Program of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections that humanizes and empowers the voices of those who are or were recently jailed on criminal justice issues through creative expression.
Russell Craig (b. 1980, Philadelphia, PA) is self-taught multimedia artist who lives and works in Philadelphia. Craig is best known for his portraits of incarcerated subjects that address larger political and social issues, particularly criminal justice reform and the impact of the prison industrial complex on individuals and communities.
Craig is a lead teaching artist with the Mural Arts Philadelphia’s Restorative Justice Guild program, a 2017 Right of Return fellow, and a 2018 Ford Foundation: Art for Justice fellow.
His artworks have been exhibited at the Philadelphia African American Museum as well as at the O. G. Experience in New York.
Craig’s art has been mentioned in various publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and The Guardian.
Craig is currently working toward his MA at Bard College in New York.