Out of the box: Artist exhibits crayon work at Rasdall Gallery



Now until Sept 21, walking into the Rasdall Gallery will be like taking a journey back to your childhood. The familiar smell of Crayola meets you at the door long before the vibrant exhibit “Static Wax” comes into focus.

The artist, Herb Williams, pieces together his work with the tools of children.

“I did my first work after 9/11 wanting to create something very sincere,” Williams said, as he stood in the middle of his display at Rasdall Gallery Monday night. “I was exploring how a child would approach the issue … they would be sincere. So I made an American flag entirely of crayons.”

The artist, who has an official account with the popular crayon manufacturer, Crayola, said his work is “very expensive and time consuming.”

“I’ve had artists try to copy my work and give up after a few months,” he said.

Williams, who worked in carpentry and sculpting during his teenage years, began creating art with crayons in 2002.

The process requires him to laminate layers of wood, chainsaw them, carve them down and paint them before covering the base with thousands of crayons.

He produces images from popular culture, like one completed this year, “Cover of Rolling Stone,” which required 50,000 crayons; and “Bitch Bag,” a gold Fendi purse depiction in the shape of a wire haired terrier.

Others, like “Plunderland” — a year-long project that required 175,000 green crayons — speak about Williams’ interpretation of the economy, government and moral society.

“I try to incorporate political and social messages using the friendliest tool out there,” Williams said. “Most of the time I’m just having fun, but sometimes I’m trying to say something true and provocative.”

The colorful enthusiast says he does not think he’ll always limit himself to still pieces involving crayons and has recently begun experimenting with stencils and moveable projects like “Artist Wheel of Fortune,” which allows observers to spin a wheel similar to the one featured on the game show “Wheel of Fortune;” and “Spin the Bottle,” which is reminiscent of a popular party game among teenagers.

“I really think “Plunderland” is the most interesting,” said Shannon Ruhl, cultural director for the Student Activities Board. “It’s an installation piece and it’s dynamic within its space … and engages the audience.”

Ruhl said the exhibit has gotten positive reception because of its nature.

“It’s fun, and people have responded positively not only to the color and smell, but also to the context he’s applied to highlight the issues he raises.”

Revisit your childhood in Rasdall Gallery during weekdays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.