Robert Dohrmann wants you to meet Leon Richmond.
Richmond is an artist, like Dohrmann, and the two have nearly identical backgrounds: born in Defiance, Ohio in 1961, raised in Lafayette, Indiana, then uprooted to Yakima, Washington.
Their paths veered, however, when, following high school and some time at Yakima Valley Community College, Dohrmann enrolled at CWU, eventually studying art, and Richmond went to Shoreline Community College to study accounting.
After years of what Richmond describes as, “soul sucking jobs,” he ended up taking an accounting position at the University of Oklahoma (a public research university in Norman, Oklahoma), where, coincidentally, Dohrmann is now an art professor.
But it was while working in monotonous jobs that Richmond slowly became interested in art. It started with art walks in Seattle, which led him to develop an appreciation for art galleries, museums, and watching documentaries about art and artists.
At the university, Richmond befriended Dohrmann, who encouraged him to follow his muse and start creating art from his hobbies, which included searching for treasures in thrift shops and collecting old catalogs and records.
With Dohrmann’s help, Richmond’s eclectic work—combining drawing, painting, sculpture, collage, LP covers, and items found in thrift shops—has been displayed in galleries and exhibitions. In fact, he has four upcoming solo shows scheduled in the next year.
But here’s the funny part: Richmond and Dohrmann are the same person.
“A lot of artists and writers have taken the idea of a nom de plume, and I really like that idea,” he explained. “And to be honest with you, I’ve spent 25-30 years promoting Bob Dohrmann, to, you know, shows here and there, nothing huge. But I said, ‘screw it, I’m going to promote Leon Richmond,’ and it’s basically my cat’s name and my middle name.
“I tell my shows, ‘please, if you’re comfortable with it, do not even use Robert Dohrmann.’ I said I want to create this kind of mythology of this guy who really has no history online except for art shows,” he continued. “So, I wrote a biography (on the website). It’s basically me and, obviously, I took some liberties and did a composite image of faces of guys about my age. The picture is like a composite of five different guys.”
Dohrmann said his motivation for the subterfuge was to “drop the ego. I’m a pretty modest guy and this would be the most modest thing I could do, to promote somebody else.”
The end result, which Dohrmann has titled “Leon Richmond’s Theater of the Absurdo,” has featured everything from collage/paintings, portraits, and shadow boxes that incorporate images taken from 1950s catalogs, to Winnebago, pie, liquor, automobile, and cigarette advertisements, to NASA spacemen, clocks, and a host of other sources (which can be seen at leonrichmondart.com.)
Think Mad Magazine and Mad Men meet Salvador Dali and Marcel Duchamp.
Dohrmann said his goal with the work is to repurpose seemingly nostalgic images to make statements about contemporary issues, such as rampant consumerism, politics, climate change, and gender.
Or, in his words, “Bob Dohrmann makes art about weird times.”