Ryan Frizzell, a.k.a. The Rhinovirus, has been infectiously spreading his many forms of creativity throughout the Murfreesboro art and music scene for years. Working in graffiti, 3D photography and music, it’s a destiny that has been infused into him since birth: “As far back as I can remember, I have had a love for art and music. I’ve always made a place for art.”
Growing up, he was inspired by a little bit of everything, including cartoons, stories, songs, bands and comic books. He was also exposed to a variety of artists who made him who he is today, beginning with his family of creatives: his great-grandmother was a painter, art teacher and the pianist of her church. His father had a memorabilia and collectibles shop, which meant Ryan ended up with tons of comics and sports cards.
“I would draw the characters on the cards over and over until it looked like them, and I always wanted to have my own comic or cartoon,” he said.
Ryan’s dad also played a part in him becoming a musician. Having been in a rock band himself, the stories Ryan would hear of his dad’s musical adventures always made him want to follow in his footsteps.
“He bought me my first electric guitar for Christmas when I was 16, a Hondo bass. I covered it immediately with photos of Don Knotts and of Flounder from The Little Mermaid.”
Ryan also had friends in a Shelbyville garage rock band called Exciting as Montana. After attending one of their rehearsals in an old barn in Flat Creek, which he still has a VHS recording of, he was inspired to begin making music of his own.
“I played a guitar for the first time that day. I wasn’t sure even how to cut the amp on. I was nervous that I was gonna play something horrible at a really loud volume. I was right. It was horrible, but I loved it.”
As for his beginnings as a visual artist, Ryan was always drawing on anything he could in school, but it was taken to a new level the day published cartoonist Tim Oliphant paid Ryan’s art class a visit. “He showed our class some basics, and helped us come up with some character ideas. I’m almost certain that is the day I decided I wanted to become an artist. Some of those characters I still sketch out to see if I still remember how.”
Shortly after that he was introduced to photographer Pinky Bass, who taught him and his classmates how to construct their own pinhole camera. Ryan recalls “Pinky’s Portable Pop-up Pinhole Camera and Darkroom” as one of the most unique creations he has ever seen, making him a fan of in-camera effects such as layering images by double-exposing photos, making shutter speed adjustments, adding filtrations and creating lens flares.
“Editing programs are great, but you can’t get some effects with editing that you can do with a real camera,” he said.
His own photography now consists of 3D anaglyphs, inspired by the return of 3D movies.
Ryan’s family also spent a lot of time traveling when he was younger.
“We would drive everywhere, just like the Griswolds on vacation. I was usually daydreaming, listening to my headphones and staring out my window (like most teenagers do), and it was then I started to notice graffiti.” After lots of practice and meeting a few other graffiti artists, he was able to improve his own street-art skills: “I started picking up style, lettering and being more creative with my characters. The more I practiced the better I got at it.”
Living in Shelbyville for a time introduced him to a few other creative friends and influences, including Ray Riddle, a.k.a. DJ Orig, who is now a producer and DJ for local rapper Big Smo.
“[Orig] was always spinning records, and sketching out his ideas on anything and everything in the room. He was constantly sharing something he had done, or working on something new. He’s always had his own style, and he had it mastered very early on.”
Ryan, DJ Orig, and other art friends got involved with the Bedford County Arts council through his high school art teachers. They helped to restore the old Fly Sewing Co. building in Shelbyville, where his great-grandmother and his mother had both worked together in the ’70s. After helping with the renovations, they were allowed to paint murals on the interior walls, providing him with a legal outlet for his newly refined graffiti skills. It is now called the Fly Center for the Arts (204 S. Main St. in Shelbyville), and contains the Bedford County art gallery, history museum, banquet hall and theater.
“I’ve had my work featured in two different exhibits there, and played several concerts there as well. Almost 20 years later, it’s a great feeling to walk through those doors, see all the changes, and still be involved in something so historical and neat.”
Still holding all of these artistic influences close to his heart, he now calls Murfreesboro his home, which has its own Pandora’s box of inspiration for him: “Be it music, or visual arts, there’s no denying that creativity flows through this town. The ’Boro has definitely made an impact on my art and life; I’ve met so many great artists here throughout the years including Jeff Bertrand, Russell Garrett, Patti Mann, Russell White, Mai Harris, Todd Wilson, Dawna Kinne Maglicano, Oliver Langston and Jimbo Eanes, to name a few. Rutherford County has really opened doors for me with such great galleries and venues such as Two Tone, and Earthsoul Gallery in Smyrna (run by talented local artist Angela Elkins). All of these artists, musicians, and this town with a Pulse have all in one way or another helped to sharpen my skills, and to inspire me as an artist.”
For Ryan, art and music have become a compulsive obsession of the best kind: “Almost every day of my life, I draw, make noise, or create some sort of something. No matter where I go, or what I do, I am always tapping on something, singing a song, whistling a melody, or sketching an idea. I make art because it’s what I do. I can’t stop.”
Ryan now plays for a band called Thunderfrog. You can check them out at Earthsoul’s opening reception, hosted by Fervent Fusion, on Friday, July 25, beginning at 6 p.m., along with some of Ryan’s newest visual art work. He will also have work on display at the Murfree Gallery throughout July.
And if you miss those opportunities to see Ryan’s artistic and musical talents, it probably won’t be long before it finds you. Ryan’s goal is to “create as much art as possible, and show it to as many people as possible. I want everyone to enjoy it, and I can just hope I catch on like a common cold, The Rhinovirus of art.”
1. (Top) Pile of ghetto blasters
3D: series of hand drawings, edited in CS6
2. Ryan with put a bird on it
11 x 16, acrylic and spray paint on canvas
3. Ziggybot (left)
Hand drawing scanned and converted into a sticker
4. Various works on display
5. Whale of a good record,
Spray paint on 12-inch vinyl record
6. Alien Flora, 8 x 10,
Spray paint and acrylic on canvas
7. Rock island rhino, 17 x 11 poster