Turing Urban Monotony Into Unconventional Gallery Walls
Interview with the Artist WHERON
AKA: Will Heron
Interview by: “AJ” Amy Jo Crowell, Publisher & Co-Founder Cosmic Yogi Movement
AJ: Tell us a little about your background.
Will: I have been an Artist since I could remember picking up a Crayola. I was 4 when I decided that my future career aspirations were “to be a professional colorer”. I doubled majored in Psychology and Art at Austin College in Sherman, Texas. I have been teaching high school visual arts since the fall of 2011. I started the collective and street-art alias ‘WHERON’ in 2012, in hopes of being able to balance my personal art practices separate from my art education career at Uplift Williams Prep. I completed the first large-scale Wheron mural in 2014 in West Dallas – known as “DALLAXY” – a giant space Pegasus mural in partnership with the Erin Cluley Gallery. Since 2014, I’ve painted over 20 large-scale mural works across Dallas and Fort Worth.
AJ: You have taught art for many years, why are you driven to teach?
Will: In the visual arts, like other centuries-old careers, learnings between generational pairings of mentor/mentee, teacher/student, expert/novice allows for the arts to continue to grow and evolve decade after decade. I am driven to teach alongside creating art, to continue passing down a passion for the visual arts to the younger generations, just as I was instilled with a deep love of the arts from a diverse spectrum of artists, mentors and my parents. I hope that my students who find this love and life in the arts will continue to pass down both their knowledge and passion to the next generations, long after I’m gone.
AJ: You have a very unique style and a “signature” cactus theme. How did this come about?
Will: On a basic level, I manipulate the imagery of different cacti species in my art to constantly address my own Southern/Texan identity. But it isn’t just that these prickly plants are a symbols of life in Texas, but it is their natural properties that fascinate me. Cacti are super resilient, surviving harsh drought or heat, and even when broken – cacti don’t die but rather thrive. Broken Cacti pieces re-root and grow a new…. They thrive from a place of ruin, which is often opposite to when humans face defeat/brokenness. I hope to compare this seemingly magical property of resilience back to the human-condition, and that in our darkest times of destruction and despair, there is also potential for regrowth and renewal.
My work often manipulates these different cacti species with other imagery to create visual word-play and illusions. Inspired by visual artists like Keith Haring and Shepard Fairey, my high-contrast, graphic illustrations push the boundaries of typical pen-&-ink illustrations into the world of mixed media and street art installations.
AJ: One of your passions is creating large, outdoor murals. Many artists shy away from the large mediums, why do you enjoy doing these so much?
Public art, street art, and mural works are my favorite because of the equity of community interaction. Unlike gallery or museum art experiences that often exclude many slices of society not privileged enough to enjoy the arts, public works provide art to ALL regardless of socio-economic status, age, race, or expertise. Large-scale mural works do not have ticket prices or ‘members-only’ receptions, but rather an open space for ALL to interpret, experience, and enjoy the art.
Public art turns average, urban monotony into unconventional gallery walls, while beautifying the community.
AJ: Share with our readers where some of your murals are in the Metroplex.
CACTEX – 718 W. Davis St., Dallas, TX
TRIANGULARGE – 443 W. Davis St., Dallas, TX
LOCAL SKELE – 1605 N Beckly Ave., Dallas, TX
DALLAXY – 410 Fabrication St., Dallas, TX
FABRIC OF WEST DALLAS – 2345 Hardwick St. Dallas, TX
DESSERT DESERT – 5624 Sears St. Dallas, TX
PLANO MURAL PROJECT – 916 E. 15th St, Plano, TX
PRICKLY PAIR – 2621 Whitmore St, Fort Worth, TX
AJ: I love your pegasus artwork, the symbol of Dallas. Tell us about some of the other themes and mediums you design.
Will: Wheron wood cut-outs are hand cut wood shapes that are acrylic painted, spiked (with real cactus spikes) and googly eyes, and resined with a clear-coat art resin. They are currently on display at Fort Works Art Gallery in Fort Worth, and the Oak Cliff Center of Fine Arts.
I also create Land Scrapes. It’s a current body of work that combines rainbow print making ‘scrapes’ with black & white ink/pen illustrations.
Drag hands is where I use the double entendre of gender-bending DRAG and a smoking cigarette DRAG. These paintings discuss the relationship of gender norms and political/societal norms, in a wheron-graphic painting style. Most recently, a pair of these Drag Hands canvases were displayed in my solo show ENTENDRE at East Field College.
I have Commercial art products as well. Such as stickers, enamel pins and t-shirts that use Wheron designs but in a commercial art form. They are sold in stores throughout Deep Ellum, Oak Cliff and other Dallas neighborhoods.
I also enjoy the Gallery “Street Art” installations where I paint short-term murals inside gallery spaces as temporary installations. Examples include the ENTENDRE 25ft. wall in East Field Gallery, or the CANDY CASTLE walls completed at Fort Works Art gallery in Sept. 2017.
AJ: What is the craziest or most unique medium you have used for your art? Something you never envisioned yourself doing.
Will: This past year I have been experimenting with cactus spikes and spines in my 2D paintings. Some of these adornments I keep in their natural organic yellowy-brown color, while in other wood-cut-outs, I paint the spikes solid black or white to mimic my graphic illustrations. These spikes are permanently resined onto the paintings with a clear-coat epoxy resin. As a proud plant dad (verging on the edge of plant hoarder), sometimes my cacti babies die… by using their skeletal spikes in my artwork, these plants end up extending their lives long beyond their impermanent plant bodies.
AJ: That sounds incredible.
Will: Other unconventional media I have used in my artworks include googly eyes, needles/push-pins, and paint remnants. Back in college, I created a whole body of work using only Hershey Kiss wrappers. These metallic foil collages were a fun way to explore with an unusual medium, that consumed a ton of time (and calories!!) to create.
AJ: I wish I would have known you during the Hershey Kiss collage days. I would have been happy to help contribute wrappers! Anything else you would like to add.
Will: We are known around town to have FRIDAY THE 13th art shows, that include 13 Wheron tattoo designs that can be permanently inked during the one-night art show. We have been doing these Friday the 13th art shows for the past couple years (March 2015, Nov 2015, March 2016, January 2017) with the next installment going down at Local Press + Brew for October 13th, 2017. At the Friday the 13th art show this October, we will have prickly illustrations on view and for sale, alongside some new Wheron commercial merchandise, and of course, 13 new tattoo designs specific to this one-night-only art experience.
AJ: That sounds amazing and a lot of fun! Where can our readers find out more about you?
Will: You can find more about my art online at www.wheronart.com
NOTE: The pictures of the group painting the mural are Will’s art students from Uplift Williams Prepatory High School.