Walter Rhoads

Walter Rhoads is an artist whose art has always had a particular affinity for the autumn of the year … that season when the veils between worlds &mdash the living and the dead, the seen and the unseen — are thinnest. He faces the unknown with mocking humor and persistent curiosity.

Mr. Death

“I was born and grew up in Sacramento. Sacramento is fundamentally rather conventional in its thinking, yet manages to produce a fair number of artists. I think the process is one of mutual irritation, like the way an oyster produces a pearl.

I majored in art at college, graduating from Sacramento City College and Sacramento State. I studied with a wide variety of teachers: Greg Kondos, Darrell Forney, Robert Else, Carlos Villa, Esteban Villa, Irving Marcus, Steve Kaltenbach, and John Fitz Gibbon, among others. I gained something from each: knowledge, techniques, attitudes.


But I probably matured more as an artist in the three or four years immediately following graduation. Not being an official grad student, but needing space in which to paint, I learned to operate in stealth mode. An art ninja, I trundled a bike trailer full of art supplies to the Art/Sculpture Lab, a cavernous Quonset hut on the outskirts of the sprawling campus, arriving late in the evening after classes had ceased. I would paint all night, then leave at dawn for my girlfriend’s apartment, a new painting, freshly dry, bungee-corded to the trailer.

By 1979, I felt ready for commercial galleries. I then had an active and fairly intense succession of solo and group shows in Northern California, but by the mid-80s I had started to feel that art was a dead end. Sales had come, but my prices were still low and I had never gotten a review. Despite a lifelong commitment to art as an essential part of my identity, I voluntarily renounced it, or at least object-making, for the better part of fifteen years. I didn’t give myself wholeheartedly to any other career during this time (except a brief period when I explored my other artistic identity as a writer). I didn’t have a career during this period, I just had jobs: menial temp work that used my body but put no claim on my heart and mind.

In 1996 I discovered the Burning Man Festival and was renewed by it, even becoming a performer in 1999 and 2003. But painting reasserted itself as the primary creative activity in my life, and I once again embraced it. It was clear to me now that, as miserable as I had been as an artist struggling (and failing) to find recognition, I was even more miserable without the satisfaction of making the art itself. I decided it didn’t matter so much if I never ‘made it’ as an artist.

Paradoxically, this renunciation of result for process set me free to again approach galleries, and I had a successful run at Ruland's Furniture and Art Gallery (Sacramento) in 2006, and in August 2007 had a solo show at Artisan Gallery in North Sacramento.

I have a lot of art left in me, varied and divergent, and my new policy is to let it all out: ‘Let no idea go unexpressed.’ So, whether it cares or not, the world is due to get more art from me. Some of it will find an audience and some of it won’t. The important thing is to give it birth.”