At the Foxy Olive, a bar in downtown Reno, a girl with green hair and piercings chugs a Pabst Blue Ribbon, a dude with fancy facial hair and a plaid shirt inspects a martini glass, and a giddy guy snorts a couple of massive rails of cocaine off a bar.
These are characters in Reno Regulars, a series of small paintings displayed in the bar. The characters are rendered in a streetwise style that looks like it could belong on a skateboard wall or a graffiti mural. The artist is Dan Steinmetz, 41, a carpenter and painter who has lived in Reno most of his life.
“All these characters are in every city, but here you can get away with a lot more,” said Steinmetz. He’s been making art since he was a kid, and he grew up skateboarding, snowboarding and playing in punk bands.
The concept of the exhibition was to show the archetypes—the regulars—found in bars all around the city, like the drunk, the cokehead, the redneck and the hipster snob.
“I just thought of the people we all know, that we’ve seen probably all too often at certain places,” said Steinmetz.
The paintings have a comic, satirical edge, but each one has some affection as well.
“There’s a little familiar part of me as an individual in each of these pieces—very familiar,” said Steinmetz. “Aside from the hipster one—I’ve never been a hipster.”
He points to the cokehead: “I’ve been down that road.”
The stripper gyrating on a stripper pole with a baby monitor in one hand: “I’ve dated that woman.”
The redneck with a “RENO” cowboy hat: “This is a family member. … I take bits and pieces of people I see. I’m not setting out to offend anybody. It’s just observation, and I communicate that observation through characters and cartooning.”
He describes his artmaking as an important outlet: “It’s cathartic to me. It’s therapeutic. It’s something I just really re-embraced. I went through a lot of healthy, dramatic changes in my life that brought me to a better place.
He paints using acrylic paints and sharpie markers. His professional experience as a carpenter comes in handy because he builds his own frames using old, recycled wood
“Instead of buying frames and wasting wood and promoting that whole engine, I can take something and recycle it and make it look cool,” he said. “It’s another creative outlet.”
One of the most enjoyable things about the exhibition is that it has a real sense of place. As Steinmetz said, variations of these barfly characters can be found in every city in the U.S., but the versions in his paintings look like the Reno versions of each of these characters—and not just because the word “Reno” appears in several of the pieces.
He says that there’s something about Reno that attracts the real-life counterparts of the characters in his paintings.
“I think for a lot of people, this is a pass-through city and a lot of people end up getting stuck here,” he said. “Or people fall in love with it and end up staying. I love this city. This city is my home. I love all the good and the bad about it.”