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Stella Pandell Russell dead, ex-NCC art professor was 90

Stella Pandell Russell, a former art professor at

Stella Pandell Russell, a former art professor at Nassau Community College, died of heart disease on June 12, 2015, in Hilton Head, S.C. She was 90. Credit: Courtesy Photo

Stella Pandell Russell, a longtime professor at Nassau Community College in Garden City, was an artist who pioneered the use of computers in her work.

Russell, of Oyster Bay Cove, also was well known for opening her Long Island house once a month for more than 25 years for what she termed her salons, modeled on the Victorian-era custom of having at-home gatherings where artists could explain their work.

Russell's salons featured artists, musicians, storytellers, and once a tribute to Janis Joplin with a musician who worked with the late rock and blues singer, according to a Newsday article.

"There are few opportunities to meet artists on a personal level," she said. "People like to come closer to a painter, dancer or teller, as storytellers are called," Russell said of her salons in a 1995 Newsday interview." Some of the summer salons included a cruise on Russell's 24-foot motor launch.

The $5 admission went to support the Firehouse Plaza Art Gallery at the community college.

Russell, who also lived in Hilton Head, South Carolina, died there on June 12 of heart disease, according to her daughter, Loriann Cody, of Oyster Bay Cove, editor of the Leader of Locust Valley. Russell was 90.

"My mother was a renaissance woman and a feminist before her time," Cody said. "She wanted her epitaph to read [simply] 'SPENT,' meaning: She lived her life to the fullest. Put it all on the table and left nothing behind."

Russell taught art at the community college for more than 40 years starting in 1964 and retiring in 2005, Cody said. After her mother retired, she continued to teach an online course on art for the college until 2010, Cody said.

Russell also authored a standard text used in college art courses, "Art in the World" and had a weekly radio show with the same title on WHPC, the college's radio station.

Russell, who was born in Manhattan, attended Hunter High School. She graduated from Hunter College in 1948, and then got doctorate in art history in 1974 from Columbia University in pre-Columbian and Mesoamerican Art.

Originally her work was in realistic watercolors and abstract expressionism, but in the 1980s she began to use computers in her work and got a master's degree in computer graphics from the New York Institute of Technology. "I've moved from traditional media like oils to airbrush and now to the digital," Russell said in a 2000 Newsday article on the arc of her career.

Her mother's use of computers in art was "cutting edge" for the time, and Russell was the keynote speaker in 1989 at the Second International Computer Graphic Conference at the University of Indiana, Cody said.

Russell's work is in the permanent collections at Princeton University, the University of Pennsylvania and the Museum of the National Association of Women Artists in New York City.

Her work also has been exhibited in the Royal Academy in Stockholm, and the Professional Artists Guild in Lincoln Center, as well as at Long Island museums, Cody said.

In addition to Cody, Russell is survived by another daughter, Janna Brown, of Hilton Head; and four grandchildren. Her late husband George, from whom she was divorced in 1968 and who was a professor of art at Lansing Community College in Michigan, died in 1974. A son, Jonathan, of Albany, died in 2011.

The funeral and burial were private. A memorial service was held last Saturday at Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Huntington.

A fund has been established in Russell's honor to provide scholarships for Oyster Bay High School students planning to further their education in art, Cody said. Donations can be sent to the Friends of the OBHS PAC at 29 Tiffany Rd., Oyster Bay, NY 11771, Cody said.

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