Motion drives the imagery in Lynne Russo’s painting. The work jumps off the canvas in an explosion of abstract colors.

The Ames Iowa native and long-time Los Angeles resident comes by this approach naturally. She trained as a dancer with members of the Joffrey Ballet. In high school, she earned a scholarship from The Royal Winnipeg Ballet School while attending a prep school at the University of Winnipeg Collegiate.

Yet, throughout her dance training she was developing a parallel passion for art. She had grown up in a house with shelves bursting with art books. Her mother was an elementary school teacher who had earned a Master’s degree in Art history. Russo devoured these books but her epiphany came during a trip to Washington D.C. where she had a actual religious experience encountering Mark Rothko’s work in person. “It was like seeing God,” she recalled.

After graduating from the University of Minnesota with degrees in Speech Communication and British Literature, she migrated to Los Angeles. Here, she was drawn to create visual art herself. Self-taught, she spent over a decade honing her ability and developing her aesthetic.

Russo doesn’t view her process as a means to an end. Instead, the physical art of painting is an essential element of the work. “I believe the act of creation is important as the result and feel passionately that the process and the finished piece can’t be separated,” says Russo.

Spurred by her early encounter with Rothko, Russo was also influenced by de Kooning, Motherwell, Kline, Mitchell, Frankenthaler, Abbott, Krasner and Chagall. Russo paints with acrylic paint, often on glass as well as canvas. She is also experimenting with mixed media work.

Whatever tools she uses, Russo likens her approach to action painters who spontaneously dribble, splash and smear paint onto the canvas versus trying to re-create particular imagery already formed in her mind.

This form of painting is often called “gestural abstraction,” which directly correlates with Russo’s past as mastering gesture is an essential element of the motions dancers must master. Yet, now it’s Russo’s colors that move.