Don’t let the name “Kostoom Arts” fool anyone. Killbuck, whose real name is Rex Norman, creates much more than that.
Besides hats, masks and other wacky wardrobe items with a steampunk motif, Killbuck also designs graphic artwork and illustration for various clients.
A painter for more than 40 years, arguably Killbuck’s best-known work came in the field of classic-style sideshow banners, a field he entered a decade ago, which he entered quite by accident.
“I discovered the works of the old-time sideshow banner painters… I was hooked,” Killbuck said.
Recently, Killbuck has been creating and selling prints of these banners, some of which came from his signature Burning Man work: a set of 32 banners that surrounded the Man in 2015 to correspond with that year’s theme, Carnival of Mirrors. The concepts range from the turn-men-into-stone gaze of “Head of Medusa” to “Professor Blammo” and his throne of fire.
Basically, that gig fell into his lap, thanks to a chance encounter with Burning Man organizers. The team, which includes event founder Larry Harvey and chief architect Andrew Johnstone, wanted an artist from San Francisco (where the collective is based) to create the funhouse banners, but when he couldn’t commit to the project early enough, he (who will remain anonymous) was sent packing. Event co-founder Michael Mikel (Danger Ranger) had seen Killbuck’s work in and around Reno (such as the Melting Pot) and recommended him to the Man Base team. The rest, as they say, is history (linked photo courtesy Kostoom Arts).
Since the success of the funhouse banners, Killbuck’s stature in the Reno art community has risen significantly. Additional pieces of his work will soon be on display at the Jensen & Co. hair salon in Reno, and he is also busy designing and building set pieces for a production of William Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors that will run at downtown’s Lear Theater in June.
These projects and more show that even after four decades of painting, Killbuck shows no signs of slowing down, even as the visual arts continue to evolve.