Call of Couture is one of our favorite shows from Herb Williams, combining two of our most loved topics: dogs and high fashion.
By Jennifer Grant
Visual artist, Herb Williams, is hailed as the “The King of Crayola.” Born in Montgomery, Alabama in 1973, Williams soon found himself working summers in construction. This became the foundation for his mastery of form and material. Williams formally studied sculpture in college and when he graduate, apprenticed under respected artists in the field. All through the years, Williams continued to developed his unique voice and stoke his love for translating form into art. Now he is a master in his own right.
Interestingly, Williams is one of the only people in the world that holds a personal account with Crayola. A single crayon sculpture can use up hundreds of thousands of crayons. Some of these stunning pieces have even been featured in Ripley’s and Guinness. You can find Williams’ work all over the world, featured in museums, children’s hospitals, corporate lobbies, and even the White House. His greatest stroke of genius, in our humble opinion, marries crayons with dogs and high fashion.
Each crayon dog sculpture is a nod to one of the major fashion houses: Chanel, Burberry, Prada, Louis Vuitton, and more. There are fifteen sculptures in all, each shaped to resemble one of the iconic pure breeds we’ve come to associate with conformation and high fashion.
Working with a medium that is remeniscent of childhood lends itself to a certain level of frivolty. Even Williams, himself, had this to say about the pieces, “My intent is to continue to seriously create art that looks at itself unseriously.”
The concept of combining dogs with fashion heralds back to The Victorian era. This was the first time in history that dogs became more valued for what they looked like, versus what they could do. It signalled a major cultural shift and also, a change in our relationship with dogs. The exhibit, Call of Couture, leads 15 different breeds in an exploration of how dogs have become the ultimate fashion accessory.
“Paintings from as early as the 15th century depict royalty with a purebred dog on their lap or by their side. Iconic fashion, like art, provides a paradigm shift which defines moments of time in society and sets it apart from banality. In the Call of Couture series the animal kingdom models contemporary fashion in my signature cut-crayon medium.”
Crayons are a gateway drug. To most adults, the sight and smell of crayons produce specific memories of childhood. The twist in the road to nostalgia is the creation of a new object, from a medium in which it was not intended. This element of unexpected interaction and play had me at hello.
I am one of the only independent buyers in the world who maintains an account with Crayola. Because I am in pursuit of larger ideas, the playful aspect of my medium is integral to the works of art I’m creating. I can subversively insert a concept that may bloom well after the initial recognition of the form as a familiar children’s implement. To create my work I need to produce sculpture on a grand scale (which takes thousands and thousands of crayons), so I order each color individually packed (3000 to a case) and cut the sticks down to the length I need. I then bond the paper—not the wax—to a form I have carved or cast, completely enveloping the form.
I am interested in identifying iconic objects that society perceives to fit one role and then reintroducing them in different subtexts. Intriguing questions arise when an object associated with childhood, such as a crayon, is used to address issues dealing with more adult matters, such as sexuality, religion, and social hierarchy. The sculptures are childlike in their curious approach to the object as icon, but beguiling and satisfying to me in the use of pure color as form. Larger room installations also add the element of playing to the olfactory sense, as the scent of the wax completely saturates the environment.
Say no more. We love it!