Herb Williams: Night Diptych, Day Diptych

Published On 07/11/2011

Location: 2nd Floor Waiting

Ornately designed panels called “diptychs” are a popular form for expression dating back to ancient Greece. Similarly conjoined art pieces can be seen throughout history, from the ivory diptychs of late antiquity to pop pieces created by Andy Warhol.

Adding a new twist to this rich tradition comes “Night Diptych, Day Diptych,” created by Herb Williams for Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital. Williams’ wooden panels, unhinged but intended to hang opposite one another on the second floor, contain more than meets the eye.

Assembled from 100,000 Crayola crayons and pieces, the wood panels foil one another in their depiction of a tree surrounded by animals in day and night scenes.

“I wanted to create a nurturing, peaceful sense about both night and day and include the tree,” said Williams, mentioning the tree as a symbol for shelter. “Some of my favorite childhood memories are from where I grew up on a pecan orchard, and I tried to keep the theme fairly simple so it wouldn’t be overwhelming.”

Because crayons are a medium readily associated with childhood, Williams' piece is innately playful and purposefully peaceful. The flora and fauna allude to the healing nature of the hospital itself.

Born in Montgomery, Ala., Williams said he has always found inspiration and a sense of escape in the wilderness of his southern surroundings. Working in construction during the summers from ages 12-18 gave Williams his basic understanding of forms and materials. He went on to receive a BFA in sculpture from Birmingham-Southern College and there apprenticed under Cordray Parker and Branko Medenica, two professional sculptors.

Upon graduation, Williams immediately went to work at a bronze foundry in West Palm Beach, Fla. There he helped cast hundreds of sculptures with the atelier Popliteo and the last piece of work by photo realist Duane Hanson, “Man on Riding Lawnmower.”

Williams relies on a bit of math and years of experience to create his unique works, which are bonded from the paper of the crayons to the form he has cast. Williams performs an experiment in color with each bold and iconic creation.

“Taking a straight object (a crayon) and trying to create the illusion of something organic is a lot of fun,” he said. “The tree is also a metaphor for me—for my career and life—as this thing I’m climbing. It’s about building on your own reality and pushing how high you can go.”

At 36, Williams has climbed quickly and reached heights unknown to many artists. He received The Joan Mitchell Foundation Museum Purchase Grant in 2004 and the Next Star Artist Award in 2008. His work was also featured at an inaugural art exhibit in Washington, DC, with Shepard Fairey, and more recently, he opened “Plunderland,” a walk-in room installation consisting of almost 500,000 crayons.

Williams is currently represented by The Rymer Gallery in Nashville, Tenn., and The Rare Gallery in Chelsea, NYC.


If you would like to inquire about underwriting any of the other pieces in the Le Bonheur Children's Hospital Art Collection, please call the Le Bonheur Children's Hospital Foundation at 901-287-6308.