“Hell yeah that’s my real name,” says Ron Rash, 35, a painter of Western-themed, psychedelic and almost cartoon-like portraits of caricatured Nevadans and Americans. He is a self-described “lowbrow artist” and “paint nerd” and uses techniques he has developed over the last 20 years.
“My technique is actually pretty rudimentary, gritty and rough,” he explains. “It’s not all polished. I wasn’t traditionally trained.”
He creates using acrylic and enamel and applies them in whatever ways strike him.
“I’ll use a toothbrush, a sock, a sponge, sandpaper or a gnarly old brush with the acrylic and then add the enamel in the end to tighten everything up.”
Beyond the techniques he uses, Rash doesn’t describe his art in terms of artistic schools or genres. He prefers to describe it in terms of the mindset of the people who make it.
“I see myself in a group of people who are my age, maybe younger, who basically have been doing art as a creative outlet almost as an offshoot of skateboarding,” he says.
His art is “not like Impressionism or abstract art” because, he says, “[It’s] just too ridiculous to be categorized.” He says that his style defies pigeonholing, but is instead part of “a genre of people with a do-it-yourself type of ethic who make the art [instead of] a genre or description of art itself.”
Rash, like many other members of the Reno art community his age, left Reno to pursue his artistic dreams elsewhere. After graduating from high school in Reno, he moved to San Diego, then to Oakland and on to New Jersey before heading back to California, and eventually, back to Reno “to raise his family and make art.”
“If you were born here, you’ll wind up coming back someday,” he explains. Reno provided a place where he could find people who shared his view of art.
Rash’s comment about Reno’s appeal to artists is reminiscent of the local artistic tradition of which he is a descendent. 1960s counterculture bands like the Charlatans started their careers at the sympathetic Red Dog Saloon in Virginia City, and an art tradition followed. Dressing in Edwardian clothes, playing for crowds in Western costumes and carrying pistols, the Charlatans played American country and folk standards like the “Wabash Cannonball” and welcomed other misfits like Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters into the Sierra town. They simultaneously were returning to traditional American culture and indulging in the counterculture. The art that accompanied their rock “implied a new lifestyle aesthetic,” Tanya Reid explains in her article, “'The Seed’ Poster: Rock, Art, and the History of Nevada.” It was “a lifestyle in which the life, itself, was art.”
For all the eschewed categorization, the attitude and appeal of the city, to say nothing of its history, undoubtedly matches Rash’s artistic style.
“There is definitely kind of an outlaw sense about Reno,” he says.