The art world lost a beautiful soul and gifted artist yesterday. DX Ross has passed. It was my great pleasure to know her. Talking with her always brought light into my life and her artwork brought a smile to my face. I know that many of you feel the same.
In December, 2006, I wrote an article about DX for Brevard Live Magazine. I offer here an update and revision of that article as a tribute to a master artist and wonderful friend.
Start of article:
Art in Brevard (Brevard Live Magazine, December 2006 revised 2/9/08)
D.X. Ross by Lou Belcher
Except for short jobs when she was young, D.X. Ross was never employed. Early on, she thought of herself as unemployable – she just knew she would have chafed at the restrictions traditional employment would have placed on her. That doesn’t mean she didn't work. An artist with boundless energy, Ross sailed her ship through diverse artistic waters, mastering several media, and creating beautiful pieces of art along the way.
It started in upstate New York where Ross grew up. As a young child, she drew trees – not with leaves as others did, but she drew them after the leaves had fallen. She enjoyed the blending of the grays and whites and showing all the detail of the branches leading to offshoots and then to progressively smaller branches. The monochromatic detail fascinated her then, and you can see the carry-over of that fascination in the intricate enameling on the pieces of jewelry she created.
Ross started in pen and ink and studied printmaking at the University of Buffalo. While working on her bachelor’s of fine arts degree, she was influenced by Bill Helwig, one of the country’s foremost enamelists. He directed the craft center at the university. He is especially known for Grisaille, a style of finely detailed monochromatic painting where shades of gray are achieved when successive layers of white are applied over a black background. The technique dates back to the 13th Century.
Because Ross was a fan of monochromatic art, she took a class from one of Helwig’s students. She loved it. As a result, she began applying the Grisaille technique to her enamel work.
After she finished school, Ross moved to San Francisco and started making jewelry in the studio in her apartment. She participated in the street artist program there and made a good living. She spoke fondly of her apartment where she could rest her eyes on the Twin Peaks when they grew tired from the fine Grisaille work.
Ross returned to New York City for an art show at Lincoln Center. As a result of selling everything on her first trip, she decided to become bi-coastal and to frequent the New York shows yearly. Later, Ross expanded her itinerary of art shows to include Florida after her mother moved here in 1978. Soon, she started spending more and more time on the East coast. Finally, she decided to move to Philadelphia to attend the Tyler School of Art in pursuit of a master’s of fine arts in metalsmithing. Ross was self-taught in metalsmithing and went to Tyler to learn how to do things faster and to refine her skills. She wanted to make her metalwork look more distinctive and dimensional. She certainly accomplished her goal.
In the mid-80s, Ross gave up living in California and bought her home in Melbourne Beach where plants dominated her yard, making a serene environment of vegetation that blends with the artistic cottage décor of her home.
Ross’s artistic emphasis was mainly on jewelry. It is the staple by which she earned a living. She said that because she could do so much with jewelry, she always liked it best. Over time, her work became more abstracted. That pleased her because it caused viewers to use their imaginations.
Ross shared her art with the world in many different ways. She taught classes to pass her art on to others. In January 2007, she taught metalsmithing in Southern California for the MASSC Metal Arts Guild. In March 2007, she taught a class at John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, North Carolina, called “Grisaille Enamel – Shades of Detail.”
Ross also shared her art and creativity through writing. She wrote a chapter highlighting the Grisaille techniques for the book The Art of Fine Enameling by Karen L. Cohen. And, her work has been exhibited in many venues throughout the country, such as the Susan Cummins Gallery in California, the Mobilia Gallery in Massachusetts, and the Oakland Museum. In 2003, her jewelry was part of the “Jewels and Gems” exhibit presented by the Renwick Gallery at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Her piece in the show, entitled “Tides of the Centuries” was described as telling a personal narrative.
The terror that struck us all on September 11, 2001, changed many of our lives. Ross admitted that it had a profound effect on her and on her art. It shook our world, reminding us that all is not permanent. As a result, Ross turned to more immediate forms of art, made of less permanent materials. She turned to pottery, china painting, and she began to make what she called “wish sticks.” The latter are branches, perhaps framing the head of a whimsical character made of pottery. The owner can hang the wish sticks on the wall or use the single-stick variety, decorated with mosaics, to divine a wish.
Ross joined the Horse Creek Pottery where she worked on her china painting pieces and where she created her pottery characters. She spoke fondly of that creative environment and the other artists who work there.
Ross's creativity touched many throughout the Brevard art world. She participated in the ArtWorks in Eau Gallie each year. She was generous with her time and participated as an artist and worked throughout the year on the committee. She volunteered her time to be on the panel for the State Interdisciplinary Grants for Artists. Also, she belonged to the Strawbridge Art League and often entered her works into the juried exhibits presented by that organization as well as serving as a juror for the Youth Art Exhibit in 2007.
DX, we will miss you as an artist, but most of all as a friend.
For those reading this, feel free to comment with your favorite DX story or just your thoughts.