Bro. Ari Roussimoff

Illustrating the meanings, message, and philosophy of Freemasonry through art.

Bold. Colorful. Deep detail.

Those are three words that describe both the artist and his paintings.

“Hello,” his voice boomed as he answered my call. “This is Ari Roussimoff.” Rarely has a simple greeting made such an impression, but again, Bro. Roussimoff is not the usual Brother.

Allow me to explain.

The goal of the Craftsmen article is to profile an operative Brother of the Craft, whose labor and work embody Masonic principles and virtue. Since the inception of our online publication in October of 2020, I have spoken with a pipe maker and beekeeper, Brothers who have instilled our values into their work. But this call was different — this Brother creates art that brings to life our most sacred Masonic symbols in his paintings.

Symbols hidden in plain sight

I recalled seeing his paintings on display at The Chancellor Robert R. Livingston Masonic Library of Grand Lodge of New York. His perspective on Freemasonry was so profound; never before had I imagined the layers of history, the story of humanity, and the presence of Freemasonry across the sands of time. Just as Roussimoff’s images were bold, the colors were equally stunning. Bright in some areas, dark in others. The spectrum of emotion not only caught your eye but pulled your attention closer for a more in-depth inspection. And that is where you found the tiny details, those breadcrumbs found in our ritual, leaving the Brother with more answers to seek.

Through his paintings, Bro. Roussimoff gives our ritual and symbols emotion, life, meaning, and perspective.

RW Pat Imbimbo

Foundations by Ari Roussimoff
Image used with permission

Hollywood Eternal by Ari Roussimoff
Image used with permission

My first question was so elementary, but I feel it is one that we all want to ask, is his art inspirational, or does he set out with a design to capture? “Very often, when I start painting, I have no idea of what it will look like,” he answered. He pointed to his painting, “Hollywood Eternal.” At first glance, you can quickly identify the celebrities of the Golden Era (Charlie Chaplin, Bette Davis, Laurel & Hardy) featured on an iconic backdrop of Hollywood Boulevard. But look closer. There’s a Shriner. And yes, a recreation of the old Hollywood Masonic Temple (look for the square and compasses) now the studio home of Jimmy Kimmel Live. Bro. Roussimoff explained that while he did take some artistic liberties in this painting, the final product captured the symbols the led him to become a Freemason. “I started seeking these symbols; I wanted to paint these symbols, which led me to become a Mason. These were mystical, abstract spiritual forms. I was attracted to the style of cubism, the geometric patterns, and occasionally use squares as the subject of composition to emphasize a subject in my paintings. My Masonic pictures are part of life; Freemasonry is meant to be a guide in life to build a society.”

Before with his Masonic paintings, Bro. Roussimoff established himself in the art world with his paintings of Old Russia. “I paint a variety of scenes, anything that is part of my life, my heart, my soul. I paint. Many of the pictures you see are Russian folk art; that was the culture of the home I was raised. I’m still there in my heart and soul.” In these paintings, the scenes capture happiness, usually at a snow-covered town center, where the people are enjoying life. As we spoke, I couldn’t help but scroll through the images on his website. The colors were so dynamic; the joy expressed in his art is truly universal.

Magic Galloping Troika by Ari Roussimoff
Image used with permission

Carnival Sideshow by Ari Roussimoff
Image used with permission

One of Bro. Roussimoff’s other interest is the carnival. He explained how in Europe, it was a big day when the festival came to town. “The tents and attractions were usually set up in a part of the largest market place, usually located in the proximity of a church. The townsfolk all came by to see the wonders. Some came with the intent of partaking of every single ride and amusement, while others came out of mere curiosity, only to get a brief glimpse of the colorful festivities. Talk about ethnic and cultural diversity!” in 1998, Bro. Roussimoff directed the film “Freaks Uncensored: A Human Sideshow,” an award-winning documentary that examined the famous and legendary carnival sideshow attractions and circus performers. “The history of the circus was incredible to find that many of the men in the circus were Freemasons. The performers were Masons! The Ringling Bros, the Alton Giant (Robert Wadlow), many artists and people in show business were Freemasons. These were thinking people who met other people who accepted differences and sought others who were like-minded.”

In his recent painting, “Chamber of Reflection,” we see a unique interpretation that references life, death, hope, time, valor, love, fears, regret, loss, martyrdom, responsibility, passion, judgment, and eternity. The image of Hiram Abiff is a frequent subject in his art, and for a good reason: Bro. Roussimoff sees Hiram as every Mason. He never paints Hiram to look the same in any of his work. We see a human being, not a symbol. His Hiram is a man who encompasses not only the lessons of morality that we are taught in Freemasonry but also is the very image of enlightenment. This is why he features Hiram in so much of his art. There is also a personal connection for Bro. Roussimoff to diety that is reflected throughout his work. Respect for diety is the bedrock of Freemasonry. As we began to close our meeting, our conversation focused on Bro. Rousimoff’s firm belief in something larger than ourselves. “God put me on the earth to paint, this was his plan. It’s not like we choose these things, I believe it is predestined. I could not live or work without a belief in God. I paint and am thankful that I have the privilege to do it.”

Chamber of Reflection by Ari Roussimoff
Image used with permission

Written by Bro. Michael Arce, Editor-in-chief of Craftsmen Online
JW Mt. Vernon Lodge #3, Albany, New York

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