Confession: I haven't always liked the crayon sculptures Herb Williams makes. I've always considered him one of the most recognizable artists in Nashville, and his work at Rymer Gallery and participation in Nashville's CSArt series make him an unquestionable asset to the community. But I still thought his work was pretty cheesy. I couldn't help it. Something about the way he uses crayons like wee building blocks to make accurate representations of guitars and mounted fish was a little precious for my taste. I felt like they were missing a step (something to make them more permanent, perhaps?) and they weren't really saying anything bold or imaginative.
But the more I'm exposed to them, the more I've warmed to them as elegant, uncomplicated art objects. It started with the simple white rabbits he makes — I might not want to write an essay about them (an occupational hazard of working as a critic means you tend to like stuff that gives you something to talk about), but I know they'd look great on display in my living room. Then I saw this project he did last year in Lubbock, Texas, that was more abstract and stylish than what I'd been used to seeing. And now, a mini-documentary by Jeremy Adams, a Watkins College of Art & Design alumnus shooting a series of videos on unique and creative Nashvillans, has made me reconsider his art once again.
It's called “The Call of the Wild,” and it follows Williams through his process. As anyone who was raised on Mister Rogers' visits to the crayon factory can attest, this shit is mesmerizing. But even better than just the visual quality of the documentary is how forthcoming Williams is about his process. He speaks about a dream he had that inspired him to begin using crayons as a medium, and talks about his newest pieces that stray from that and are more akin to street art and graffiti. It's definitely worth watching — and it may give you a newfound appreciation for Williams' work.