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Yuristy, Russell (1936–)

Russell Yuristy, September 1981.
L. Marusiak (Saskatchewan Archives Board) 81-1748-54

Russell Yuristy is well known for his surrealistic playground creations: these playful sculptures can be found across Canada and in the United States. However, he is not confined to three-dimensional works, but also expresses himself through painting, works in pen, pencil, pastels, and various printmaking techniques. Yuristy was born in Goodeve, Saskatchewan. In 1959, he received his BA with a major in English and creative writing from the University of Saskatchewan. In 1962–63, he attended art classes there, and then completed an MSc in Art in 1967 at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. He taught drawing and painting at the University of Saskatchewan, Regina Campus from 1967 to 1971, and was also workshop coordinator for the Emma Lake Artists’ Workshops in 1969 and 1970. In 1971, Yuristy moved to Silton, Saskatchewan, where he purchased the old Roman Catholic Church on the main street. In Silton, Yuristy became the project leader of the Creative Playground Workshop, which saw the construction, sometimes in his backyard, of large animal playground structures. These structures were inspired by surrealistic drawings he had made of hollow animals.

In 1974, officials of Expo Canada commissioned Yuristy to design and build a wooden animal playground for Expo ’74 in Spokane, Washington. The fair’s theme of conservation and ecology matched his work perfectly because his playground structures use lumber mill rejects and recycled wood. Some of the pieces located on Canada Island include a giant crow and hornless moose. Children have approved of Yuristy’s constructions, but adults have not always agreed. In 1977, there was an uproar over a structure in the shape of a giant buffalo built for the Swift Current Exhibition Centre; the original wooden structure, destroyed by vandals, was rebuilt in 1978 out of concrete and reinforced steel. Some of his other playground structures include a goose commissioned by the Wascana Centre Authority in Regina, and a beaver commissioned by the National Capital Commission in Ottawa. In 1994, he created a large aluminium sculpture titled Switch Hitter for Ottawa’s Triple A Stadium.

Yuristy has also exhibited his paintings, drawings, and prints in numerous cities across Canada. He has had solo exhibitions at the Susan Whitney Gallery in Regina as well as in Montreal, Ottawa, and Lethbridge. In 1986, he left Saskatchewan for Ottawa. His works can be found at the National Gallery of Canada, Canada Council Art Bank, Mendel Art Gallery, MacKenzie Art Gallery, McDonald Corporation (Chicago), and Shaklee Corporation (San Francisco).

Julia Krueger

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