St. Augustine artist Russell Maycumber makes small art go big on Highway Gallery


"All kids draw. I realized I didn't want to give it up."

St. Augustine artist Russell Maycumber did more than that, turning his talent on an unusual medium — Post-it Notes. It happened when Maycumber was in college. He would constantly fidget with his hands, distracting him from his work. As a way to cope, he began drawing on the notes.

"There were times I'd go through an entire stack in one class," Maycumber remembers. The Post-it drawings did more than help him retain information; they gave him the inspiration for his future work. He went from Post-it doodling in college to constructing a single piece containing 1,500 notes that took him three years to finish.

That colossal work was featured in Florida Mining Gallery, then selected for inclusion in this month's Highway Gallery showcase — a collaboration among Harbinger, Florida Mining Gallery, Clear Channel Outdoor and Clearly Jacksonville. Nine artists are being featured on billboards throughout the city this year.

But Maycumber does more than expand on his college notes. He, his wife Elizabeth and their son Russell Maycumber III contributed their art to Ransom, an exhibit that closed in December at Wayfarers Brooklyn in New York. Three hundred artists were each assigned a single word for that exhibit, and works — each containing that assigned word — were arranged to spell a true story.

When Maycumber was younger, he was hesitant to show his art to anyone. By keeping it to himself, he was producing a cycle of repetitive art that lacked feedback. He eventually realized what he was doing and took his art to a larger audience. "I did it as a service to myself," he says.

Maycumber describes his first art show in 2004 at space:eight in St. Augustine as an adrenaline rush. After years of keeping his art to himself, he put it on display for everyone. "It was like the veil over the mirror was taken away," he says.

Rob DePiazza, the owner and founder of space:eight, describes Maycumber's work as "outsider art." It "doesn't emulate from insanity, but rather from a keen observation of the outside world."

Maycumber collaborated with Florida Mining Gallery on a pop-up gallery for 
Art Basel in Miami last year that included Bird Cage, an installation that's his largest piece to date — 15 feet tall, 10 feet in diameter, weighing 150 pounds.

Maycumber, the woodshop administrator at Flagler College, has seen his art progress in laps and bounds since that first show. "The older you get, the more you start thinking, ‘How can I make this work for other people?' " he says.

While the scope and audience of his work may grow, the reason behind his inspiration remains unchanged. "I use art," he says, "to make sense of things that impress me on a subconscious level."

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