Artist Portrait: Rich Menger

Applause celebrates an artist in our community bi-weekly

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One man’s trash might be Rich Menger’s painting surface.

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Rich Menger likes to paint musicians - in this painting, it's Johnny Cash.    MICHAEL HOLAHAN/STAFF
Rich Menger likes to paint musicians - in this painting, it's Johnny Cash.

“I paint on wood and stuff like doors. People throw things out all the time,” said Menger, who will have an exhibit of his work at Artist’s Local 1155, formerly known as Gaartdensity, in March. “I have all kinds of wood. I don’t like painting on canvas.”

Menger, who works as an Augusta firefighter, has always liked to draw and paint; his greatest inspiration is Howard Finster, a Georgia preacher and folk artist, who died in 2001.

“I used to go up there to his Paradise Gardens,” he said. “It’s really cool.”

Menger’s work also has a pop-art, Andy Warhol feel. He has painted Angry Birds, beer cans and other items from popular culture. He likes to paint musicians including The Beatles, Elvis Costello, David Bowie and Johnny Cash. True to Finster, he incorporates words into his paintings.

The musical influence combines with that ability to paint on anything with a set of paintings on diddley bows, a type of primitive guitar.

“A lot of guys, especially slide players, start on diddley bows,” he said.

A two-by-four, some metal wire and a metal container such an Altoid canister make up the diddley bow itself, and then Menger brings it to life with artists such as the Beatles.

Menger said in addition to his upcoming show, the best place to check out his work is on Facebook at

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