From metal art to greeting cards, voodoo dolls to stand-up comedy, artist Ryn Gargulinski is an industry unto herself.
Ryn Gargulinski is trying to give up smoking. She pulls on one of these electronic cigarettes, exhales, and laughs heartily – and throatily.
Her laugh is loud and infectious. She tosses her head back. Her dogs, Sawyer and Phoebe, bark. The dog art almost barks as well.
She’s surrounded by her art – on the back patio of her home, in the garden. It’s lying unfinished on the table and hanging finished from trees and stuck into the ground. Her pieces say things like ‘Beware of Cat’, ‘Beware of Jerks’ and ‘We love you now go away’.
They’re cut from large sheets of metal with electric shears, regular shears, and a Dremel tool to file the edges. Then they’re spray-painted bright colors, and cartoon-like teeth and eyes are added. Most of them are missing noses.
“I just know I like big eyes and big teeth and I’m not fond of noses,” says Ryn.
She also likes voodoo dolls, yoga, dogs, writing, camping (although only recently), and people.
The love of writing led her towards high school journalism in Troy, Michigan, where “I always stood out as weird. I didn’t meet any people other than white Roman Catholics”. It led her to journalist jobs, freelancing in New York City and a couple of senior jobs on local newspapers, in New Mexico, California and Oregon.
And finally she reached Tucson. “It rained in Oregon and I’m prone to depression so you can’t put me in a rainy climate. I said ‘I’m going to go somewhere where it doesn’t rain’.”
That was in 2006. After a stint on the Tucson Citizen, she was forced to go freelance again in 2009 when the print version of the newspaper closed. And that’s when Ryn stepped things up.
By then she had a mortgage to pay, so she sought as much writing, art, book and illustration commissions as she could. She’s tried her hand at greetings cards, tattoos and ad copy, and has a regular column in Tucson Weekly. She’s an industry unto herself – in her own words, “Ryndustries”. She’s even dabbled in stand-up comedy, something that won’t surprise anybody who’s met her.
“That’s the most terrifying thing I’ve ever done in my life,” say the sometime performer at Laffs comedy club. Her comedy act poked fun at herself and the “messed-up stuff in my life. While dark and brooding is a big part of me, it doesn’t really get much laughs.”
She’s engaging, fun, opinionated, articulate, and easily bored – mercurial and true to her Gemini star sign.
And while she certainly belongs more in Tucson than Troy, Michigan, it’s safe to say she does not belong in the new-build subdivision she lives in, a place where every tan-colored stuccoed home looks almost exactly the same.
“I hate it,” she shrugs. “I’m always getting in trouble with the Homeowners’ Association.” But she does like Tucson and its “seedy charm”. And, taking full advantage of the fact that HOA regulations don’t extend to interiors or back yards, she has put her own stamp on both.
Her living room boasts giraffe-like stamps all over the ceiling, a lot of animal prints, and ornaments that include painted skulls, a gargoyle, and fabric galore, and a lava lamp. The back patio is artist studio meets gallery meets junk yard. Gerson’s, Tucson’s south side salvage yard, is one of her favorite places.
“I’ve always been a garbage picker,” she says. But whereas it was lucrative in New York, where one person’s trash was literally another’s treasure, in Tucson it’s different. “They actually throw out garbage. So I decided to take the garbage and make it into something nice.”
And although Ryn’s own art appears cartoon-happy, she thrives on having that dark side. Her first art related memory is of drawing a cartoon of Snoopy on her parents’ garage walls and getting yelled at. “That was when I knew the artist’s life was full of pain.”
While at college as an English major in New York, she “fell in love with folklore”, becoming fascinated with hearing people’s stories. She turned that interest into her thesis, spending around two years interviewing subway workers and cataloging their stories – including the suicides they witnessed.
“Rynski’s Artski”, as she calls it, could be set for an exciting year. Ryn is entering the licensing and wholesale market, working with an agent to take over the world, “or at least big chunks of the nation”. She just started supplying a pet boutique in Cape Cod, and has had requests for her metal work from Australia.
The most popular of her signs? Beware of Dog. “I want second place to go to Beware of Puking Cat signs,” she says. “But although people love the idea, they don’t seem to love the idea of a metal puking cat hanging in their home or yard. For some reason, though, folks seem to dig the Beware of Ugly fish sign…”