The abstract artist who remained an unknown Nevadan
Hardly published, mostly unknown and rarely recognized, local abstract artist, Richard Guy Walton, has works plastered on the walls as part of the John and Geraldine Lilley Museum of Art.
Anthony Shafton, author of Walton’s Biography “A Nevada Life: Richard Guy Walton”, pushed Walton’s work to gain more recognition. Students can view it on display at the University of Nevada, Reno in the Church Fine Arts building.
“[Walton] really wanted to appeal to young people,” Shafton told The Sagebrush. “And the fact that young people of this generation did not respond to him really discouraged him and he stopped painting for several years.”
It seems that Walton’s appeal to the younger generation was not seen during his lifetime, but now being on display at the university will give his work a chance to be admired, not only by people on campus, but also by the people of Reno. Reno was Walton’s last home, so it was only fitting to remember his work here.
Walton, also known as Nevada’s “Grand Old Man” of abstract art, was born in San Francisco, California in 1914 and later died in Reno in 2005. A decade before his death, Nevada Museum of Art allowed him three exhibitions in 1993 and 1994 for his ranges of abstract painting mediums.
This artist has tried everything. He tries his hand at photography and caricatural drawing before embarking on abstract art with watercolour, oil and enamel paint on different supports and even acrylic paint.
“It’s hard for me to say what students will get out of it because there are so many styles, you know, and when I look at student art here, it’s also in, you know, so many styles. “, Shafton said. “But one thing I really hope for is that the result is technical mastery there because he was really a master of techniques.”
Walton struggled because the market wanted people to produce in a certain style of art, but he didn’t want to conform to just one. He wanted to create his own individualism and not be constrained by the art that was taking hold of him at that time.
The Walton exhibit has 22 pieces hanging on the walls, each divided into some of their own individual sections and some grouped together.
One of Shafton’s favorites is “The Image of Ithaca/Triptych II”, which is an oil and enamel painting on masonite surface from 1965. The painting has reddish flaps on thirds exteriors of the room and in the center is a mixture of colors. and designs with a black oil frame covered with blotches of a creamy white blended with a pinkish color in the center.
“You know, it’s hard for me to tell you why this appeals to me the most…[just] something about it,” Shafton said.
Shafton was also very fond of one of his later paintings titled “2000 AD” from 1992, which is a depiction of a nude that is also an oil and enamel work on a masonite surface.
“I suspect that [piece] had to do with hoping for some sort of regeneration in the world,” Shafton said, pointing to the coin.
Not only did Walton have an assortment of paintings that may have never been recognized or received little attention, but he also had an assortment of previously unpublished written works.
What was his written work about?
“Himself,” Shafton said with a chuckle. “[He wrote] a pure autobiography and much in the novel format, which would essentially [be] autobiographical fiction.
However, Walton also focused on other things. Like a photo book he compiled on Virginia City, which was never published, and individual pieces on perspective theories. Walton even wrote a bit about an underwater theory based on his 1977 track “Off Riding Rock I.”
Regardless of unfinished or unrecognized work, Walton still managed to play a huge part in the abstract art community in Nevada’s cultural history and Shafton is here to help reintroduce him to the Reno community where he was. previously recognized.
For all art students in the university community, Shafton said Walton’s advice would simply be political.
“He would say, for the love of God, save this country from fascism,” Shafton pointed out with a smile. “What I would say about Walton… Don’t limit yourself in your creative ambitions.”
The retrospective exhibition will remain open to the public until April 24 at Lilley’s Front Door Gallery.
Jaedyn Young can be contacted at [email protected] or on Twitter @jaedyn_young3.