You are the co-founder of SeeSAW. Tell us about this movement within Savannah.
I co-founded SeeSAW, See Savannah Art Walls, with friend and fellow artist James “DrZ” Zdaniewski in order to create a culture in Savannah where local art, local business, and community engagement could be synthesized through public art projects while simultaneously creating opportunities for Savannah and its creative community to engage in a global cultural dialogue.
Under the banner of SeeSAW, DrZ and I worked with Ellen Harris of Savannah’s Metropolitan Planning Commission to create a mural ordinance and policy after public works of art on private property were arbitrarily buffed by the city and/or resulted in illegal signage citations for property owners. At that time there was no way to formally apply to paint a mural on private property. The rights of what a building owner can or can’t do in Savannah is another discussion altogether, but in order to create a mural culture in Savannah a policy was necessary and we got it done.
The first iteration of the mural policy was approved in late 2011, under that policy SeeSAW successfully petitioned for a designated mural wall at 34th and Habersham Street, the first wall of its kind in Savannah. The policy went through several reviews over the course of 2012 and a final version was approved and officially implemented into city planning by Savannah’s City Council in January of 2013.
Tell us about your mural on Montgomery Hall.
The Montgomery Hall mural is a collaboration effort between SCAD, myself and SeeSAW. SCAD commissioned me to create a vibrant, energetic mural in the style of my personal fine art. Together we came up with a visual concept that reflects the history of the location as an individual hub, and the current hive of ideas and creativity that it is now. Obviously the scale of the mural makes a statement with its physical presence (66 feet x 30 feet) but just as important, the size of the wall symbolizes the fact that SCAD is undoubtedly endorsing a culture of contemporary pubic art in Savannah. I can’t give SCAD enough credit for allowing me to let loose. Vice President Glenn Wallace and Amy Zurcher pushed me to go all out. Everyday I worked on that mural was a pleasure and an honor. Its taken a lot of support and sacrifice from friends, family and the Savannah community to make the Montgomery Hall mural possible, and for me, that wall is 1,900 square feet of validation for those that got us here.
What’s the hardest thing about creating street art?
In terms of facilitating sanctioned public art, the hardest thing is creating works that are intriguing, challenging, and honest while being respectful to the people and neighborhood in which the art will live. You will never please everyone, nor should you try. Art is at its best when it leaves no room for indifference but context must be a consideration.
How has your art evolved throughout the years?
My work has devolved back to natural, loose and gestural mark making. For sometime I was creating work that looked fluid and energetic at the end, but the process itself was tight and constrained. I’ve been getting back to the instinctual flow. My brush handling skills have gotten stronger. I think that’s a by-product of understanding what kind of lines I intuitively want to pull. I’ve become more in tune with my entire body as a mechanism to pull a brush stroke. I enjoy working on pieces over extended periods of time, re-visitations as Troy Wandzel calls them.
If you had the chance to take your work on the road, where would you travel?
There are so many choices. I’d like to go somewhere with no agenda and absorb myself in the stimuli. I’d be interested to see the new ideas and images that would come from that.
Website: www.hebermehl.com & www.savannahartwalls.org
Twitter: @Hebermehl_Art & @SavArtWalls