Artist Nick Ringelstetter’s Atomic Dreams | Arts and theater

One of Nick Ringelstetter’s most devoted patrons has collected at least six of the artist’s original paintings. Not one or two, but six.

Artist Nick Ringelstetter walks past a black-lit artwork he created at his Atomic7 studio in Spring Green. Ringelstetter is among nearly 500 artists who will exhibit July 9-10 at Art Fair on the Square 2022.


“One day I finally said, ‘Dude, what do you do for a living?'” Ringelstetter asked the art buyer.

“He said, ‘I’m a neurosurgeon. I just love the way your brain works.

It’s a phenomenon that has earned Ringelstetter a coveted spot in the annual Art Fair on the Square seven times. On July 9-10, he will be among the nearly 500 artists exhibiting at this year’s show, which is expected to bring thousands upon thousands of art lovers to Capitol Square. The neighboring Art Fair Off the Square, also Downtown that same weekend, will feature the work of about 140 Wisconsin artists and artisans.

Smoothing resin over artwork in Atomic7 Studio

Artists Jared Breyfogle, back, and Nick Ringelstetter smooth resin over the surface of a Ringelstetter piece at Atomic7 Studio in Spring Green.


About a quarter of the artists in this year’s Art Fair on the Square are from Wisconsin. And 6% are from Madison. Ringelstetter, who calls his own genre of multimedia paintings “pop psychedelic,” is one of many original, edgy stylists at the event.

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“It’s really something in itself,” he said of his work, which combines dreamy imagery with pop culture references and layers and layers of color. Created with spray paints, watercolors, acrylic paints and even a black oil-based Sharpie, each of his originals is a visually exciting adventure.

While the 2022 Art Fair on the Square will also feature everything from realistic landscape paintings to functional ceramics and wearable art and jewelry, “A small fraction of what you’ll see at the Art Fair on the Square is the work of younger artists building on the Neo-Expressionist works of artists like Jean-Michel Basquiat,” said Anik Dupati, director of events at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, which is hosting the fair.

Interior by Atomic7 Studio

Artist Jared Breyfogle, a longtime friend of Nick Ringelstetter, walks through the former garage that Ringelstetter has turned into his Atomic7 Studio.


In these works, Dupathi explained in an email, viewers will find “the hard-to-miss influence of digital technology, popular urban culture, and other contemporary visual stimuli such as anime, graphic design, and murals.

“You didn’t see Jordans in artwork, for example, before the 1980s because they didn’t exist,” Dupati said. “And younger generations are less bound by the hierarchies of art and less restrictive about what can be included in the compositions that hang on their walls.”

As for Ringelstetter, “A lot of people who buy my stuff are in the medical industry, and the reason they find my stuff is because it makes them think,” the artist said. “They can see how my brain works.”

“I guess I have a very active brain. It never turns off. It always crosses the line. He always says, “Why stop there? Go on, go on.”

From a dream

Even the name of Ringelstetter’s Spring Green-based art practice, Atomic7 Studio, came to him in a dream.

“I’m a very, very active dreamer,” he said. As a boy, he would dream of making art and traveling. One night he dreamed someone walked past him wearing an Atomic T-shirt and “there was a bunch of gold sevens on the side,” he said. “I knew if I ever started a business, that’s what it would be called.”

Ringelstetter, 36, now makes a living by selling his works at art shows throughout the year and on his website, where originals fetch about $8,000.

Just off a country highway, the self-taught artist works in a converted garage whose interior is a work of art in itself, with found objects perched on shelves and faux woven vines draped over ceiling beams that have been wrapped in jute. A room he built in the studio is dedicated to materials that glow in the dark.

Nick Ringelstetter polishes artwork with resin

Nick Ringelstetter enhances a piece of resin art at his Atomic7 Studio in Spring Green.


Ringelstetter, fascinated by the science of color theory and color depth, likes to work with UV-reflective materials and layering, “which creates a natural 3-D effect … and almost tricks your mind,” he said.

Case in point: A nearly 8-foot-wide original on his studio wall based on the monster images that friends, family and community kids created during a fundraising workshop he created called “Painting Monsters with Nick” .

“Your brain sees depth through blue and red tones. So there’s a lot of blue and red undertones in that, so when you look at it, you see some things start to come off the canvas,” he said.

Black light lighting in Atomic7 Studio

Fluorescent art materials and artifacts are illuminated with black light at Nick Ringelstetter’s Atomic7 Studio in Spring Green.


“I was always a big fan of ‘Where’s Waldo?’ growing up,” he said. “You’re looking for Waldo, but I’ve always loved the fact that the artist took so much time to make sure that every other character was different from the next.”

“Weird Science”

All of Ringelstetter’s artworks are painstakingly detailed and the originals can take up to four weeks to paint. Some of his best sellers are canvas prints of his originals, which he covers with a thick, transparent layer of epoxy. After carefully applying the clear resin and smoothing it by hand, he runs a heat gun over each one to eliminate any bubbles.

“People want it shinier, with more shine – because they can’t afford the originals, but they want a print that looks like an original. That’s why I started doing this process,” Ringelstetter said.

Jared Breyfogle with his work

Jared Breyfogle displays artwork he created to be exhibited at the 2022 Off the Square Art Fair.


Ringelstetter’s method “is always a weird science project,” said the artist’s longtime friend Jared Breyfogle. An artist with unusual works inspired by music and the 80s, Breyfogle will exhibit his own works at the 2022 Off the Square Art Fair.

The two men have known each other since working at a farmer’s market near Spring Green in their school days. As teenagers, they often made “goofy movies in the woods,” Breyfogle said.

Art supplies at Atomic7 Studio

Artist Nick Ringelstetter shows off some of the supplies he uses to create his artwork at Atomic7 Studio.


“We always had a video camera and we always had a sketchbook,” Ringelstetter recalls. “We did that for about two, three years, then went our separate ways.” But they remained friends, and years later, Breyfogle began helping Ringelstetter with preparations and traveling to shows.

Ringelstetter spends most of the year exhibiting at shows in the Midwest, but in the winter he and Breyfogle head to Florida to exhibit there. Last winter, they skipped renting a studio in Florida and spent the season creating art outdoors.

Resin casting

Nick Ringelstetter pours resin onto the surface of one of his art prints at Atomic7 Studio in Spring Green.


“Last winter we sat outside all day every day, just painting from sun up to sun down,” Breyfogle said.

Objective: Sell one unit

In mid-June, the two artists exhibited at the Spring Green Art Fair. Ringelstetter feels particularly devoted to this show because it’s where he got his start.

“In 2007, I just couldn’t find art that I wanted to put on my own walls. All the art I found was boring and not what I was interested in.

“So I took $200 to buy canvases and some paints and made my own. I did five paintings and for fun I applied to the Spring Green Art Fair,” he said.

To Ringelstetter’s surprise, it was accepted, “and that forced me to do a whole art booth in about four months.”

“My goal was to sell one piece, and the first day I sold 13 out of 16. That night I went home and painted until 1 a.m. just to fill the walls of my booth” the next day.

“If it wasn’t for this show, I don’t even know if I would be doing this,” Ringelstetter said. “I am very grateful to the committee for choosing me. I was making (art) just to make it. I just loved making things and this was one of the random things I did – and it changed my life.”

As for the Art Fair on the Square, “the application asks, ‘Why are you applying for this show?’ and I say, ‘It’s a national event with artists from all over the world. I want to show them that the artists here have talent too,” said Ringelstetter.

“In a way, it’s a homecoming. Spring Green is our hometown, but Madison is our hometown.”

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