ARTIST:RON WHARTON, A.K.A. "THE ART PIMP"
"I want to bring the nasty bits into your house and proudly display
just anyone can pull off the moniker, The Art Pimp. Though we’re
sure art pimpin’ ain’t easy, Maryland native Ron Wharton
has an amazing way of combining some of the most iconic, beautiful,
and even brutally honest facets of American life into work of art
that make you question more than just what kind of cocktail you’d
--- Ron’s paintings eat American
culture, and crap out cynical, ironic remarks. It’s almost like
he wants to make you seriously reconsider all of the things you at
some point forgot about sex, drugs, the rich and famous, religion,
culture and politics. He wants to expose the dirty little vices that
make us all tick, and he does a ridiculously good job at it.
---“ I like using this stuff in
paintings for lots of different reasons. I like the idea of incorporating
these things into paintings because they sorta take the farty out
of art. I like to confront the viewer with images that your mind has
learned to ignore and look beyond. I reconfigure these symbols ad
nauseum to see them in a different way. And vices? I don’t shy
away from vice, I run towards it. I don’t want to paint art
that makes you forget about the outside world in some dreamy kinda
way. I want to bring the nasty bits into your house and proudly display
---Even though his style is pretty consistent,
the subject matter and tone of each individual painting varies greatly.
He has different collections and (visibly) goes through different
phases. He’s also truly doing a service by showing people that
all different types of art are valid and that there is definitely
a market for pop-surrealism.
---Though Ron currently calls San Diego
home, his roots are right here in Maryland. Before he was officially
The Art Pimp, Ron made quite a name for himself in Ocean City as a
musician, and an artist. (Or a kid in a really loud grunge band that
stirs all the kids up and causes mass panic; depending on who you
---“I’ve been doing art since
day 1; I’ve always really like it. Then around 18 years old
I needed more fun and excitement. I had an urge to shout my thoughts
instead of methodically paint them. So I started playing in a band
“explains Ron. His creativity is just too large for one outlet.
---It was in the punk rock band “Spheroids”
along with Jimmy Doerzbach and Paul Nay that Ron developed his knack
for” insulting and berating audiences.”
---“We were playing punk rock in
Salisbury before there was MTV. It didn’t go over well.”
---Even though Spheroids called it quits
right as the 80’s skateboarding scene was on the rise, it wasn’t
long before Ron joined up with Randy Welsh and Dan Dougherty to form
a band that people are still talking about 2-0 years later; Toxic
---“The name means nothing; (we)
just got tired of trying to choose one and picked the first thing
to fall out of our mouths). We prefer ‘T.F.’. To us that
always stood for three f@%k-ups.” says Ron. Toxic Freedom played
all over Salisbury and Ocean City along with the band the “Abra-Cadavers.”
By the early 90’s T.F had been systematically barred from every
establishment in the Delmarva area. However, in the mid 90’s
the grunge scene broke and doors began to open back up.
---“We waded back into the scene
playing at a charity event in the basketball court at the gym on 61st
street. We only made it through 3 songs before we go shut down. Instant
chaos. It was so fun. Then all the clubs were asking us back and we
tried them all out, all of them. T.F has played in clubs that we absolutely
hate, but playing punk rock in a club you can’t stand makes
it even more fulfilling. Some of our favorite gigs were always Cloud
Break shows.” Woody and Bongo always used to welcome us to their
bloody gravel lot with open arms” tells Ron.
---Causing unexpected chaos is always
a plus. For many Ocean City locals and repeat weekend warriors, Cloud
Break was probably the place you remember seeing your first T.F. show,
back in the day. Cloud Break was one of the only spots to go if you
wanted to see a great punk band or hardcore show with a bunch of other
people that were really into the music too.
---Though playing in TF was undoubtedly
a great time and an excellent creative outlet, nothing last forever.
“By 95, we felt like we had milked all the fun out of music
that we could get from TF. It was at this time I went back to painting
full time “Ron says.
---Every time TF gets brought up in a
conversation around town nowadays, it seems like someone in the crowd
is always itching for a reunion tour. I asked Ron if he would ever
---“Every old hardcore skate band
from the 80’s that you’ve ever wanted to see still plays
out here (Cali) and as much as I still love the music, it’s
kinda depressing and wrong to watch them play at like 50 and trying
to catch their breath. Myself and my band mates have no interest in
being on display like that. So no there will never be a reunion. We
have the baseball player attitude; we were out the top of our game
and got out…TF is best remembered on cd. One thing that would
stoke this old man would be if some young shredders like the Phantom
Limbs would cover a couple of TF songs I am looking at you Kasey.”
---TF might be long gone but Ron’s
art was just coming into its own after the breakup. It was around
that time Ron began a T-shirt company with his brother called Soul
Fish and collaborated on work with Tres Denk and the Eastern Artist
Tribe, this was also when Ron began to do a lot of murals around town.
If you have been around Ocean City for a while you no doubt remember
some of the murals Ron painted at Cloud Break and the Annex (formerly
on 8th street). It was Common Grounds Coffee house that would end
up finally channeling Ron’s art into a career.
---“I did a mural for Emmit and
Tracy McGovern down at Common Ground Coffee House. They let me hang
art down there and the paintings started selling. I adopted the habit
of painting every day non-stop. When they moved across the street
to Sky Lab, I went with them. I ended up doing a lot of murals for
them and sold a lot of art at that location also.It was also during
this time Ron met his common law wife tj rymoff, whom would later
be part of his motivation for branching out past the eastern shore.
college she wanted to go out west and I also had the itch so we rolled
out. We arrived in San Diego in the winter of 98. I was still painting
every day, so the art was starting to take up valuable living space.
I went to get a haircut at this place called Seth’s Chop Shop.
Seth had just moved into a new location where the walls were large,
tall, and white. I offered to fill the walls with murals if he’d
let me hang art all over the place. He agreed and I painted his shop
and unleashed my back stock of art in there. I am still there and
Seth has made the place bigger over the years including a tattoo shop.
The shop compliments some of my more kustom culture like art. “
---Later on, Ron also commissioned a
set of paintings for Seth that takes a different spin on some familiar
logos. “He wanted a set of old southern California fast food
logos. I labeled them as f*@kwads cause they kinda are. They sell
food like crack dealers. Don’t get me wrong though. I love that
food. Seth let me inflict whatever style I wanted to use on them,
so I chose a style I have been doing a lot of lately. It’s a
loose style with lots of paint chunkin’. I ‘m addicted
to paint drips. The set is currently hanging at his shop and can be
seen in the background of numerous rockabilly modeling shoots.”
---Today Ron and Tj live in Imperial
Beach, California. Ron says the move has been a good thing as he has
been able to do a lot more shows now in downtown San Diego, including
one specifically memorable event that broke down any out dated ideas
people may have about seeing anything other than “fine art”
---“The highlight of showing art
in Diego so far was being asked in 2009 to display work at the Oceanside
Museum of Art. It was a privilege to be asked to show work with 8
of my San Diego lowbrow art contemporaries. It was called, “Lowbrow
Art: Nine San Diego Pop Surrealist”. To get the kind of art
that I do into a really nice established museum like this was actually
kind of surreal in itself.” says Ron.
---Just in case you’re wondering,
the term “lowbrow” is a movement that began in the 70’s
with artists like underground cartoonist Robert Williams and Gary
Panter. Lowbrow art often has a sense of humor-sometimes sarcastic
or even political. Most museums don’t consider lowbrow to be
a legitimate art form, but Ron doesn’t seem to mind that his
work fits into this category.
---“At the time lowbrow art surfaced
in the art world, I think the term lowbrow was a defining term to
set it apart from the art of the day. Lowbrow is generally defined
as southern California pop cultural based art with a narrative. As
with most general descriptions, the term has been modified, watered
down and made more inclusive. At the end of the day…art is art…”
---No matter what label you smack on
it, Ron’s art is original, thought provoking, and (effin’)
spectacular. Just last month, Ron made a trip back to the place that
started it all, Ocean City. Many people were very pleased to find
out that he was participating in an art show at Punk Rock Fish alongside
other phenomenal local artists. “This year I’ve been hellbent
on coming across America having art shows where ever galleries will
have me. When Matt Dove called me awhile back I jumped at the chance
to have a show at his Punk Rock Fish Studio. It was a no brainer,
I got to see family, old friends, new friends and sell some art in
the process. I had a frikken blast while I was in OC. The warm reception
was awesome. The painting that didn’t sell came back to Cali
but I’m going to try to make this an annual event. I plan on
coming back next year coinciding with the next Dew tour. “Glad
to hear he is planning on making this a reoccurring event!
---As for what the future holds for the
Art Pimp, don’t look for any upcoming Maryland shows, but all
of you west coasters are in luck. September 16 Ron will be doing a
solo show at the Inside Out Gallery in Traverse City, MI. “The
show is called, URGE art work by RWharton \the art pimp\ [with the
tagline]’ art that tastes like a sugar coated satan sandwich
‘ . It’s going to be the largest one I’ve ever done.
The show will be hanging for a full month. I can’t wait. “
---You would seriously be doing yourself
a grave injustice if you did not check out Ron’s website (and
also play with the animation gallery whilst there). You can check
out some of his work, read other interviews with him, and even purchase
some brand new snazzy wall décor. Get to it: rwharton.illequipped.com.
---To send you off, one of Ron’s
favorite quotes , “ All paid jobs absorb and degrade the mind”
Aristotle -332 BC.