By Brian Tucker
I ran into Mark Herbert recently, seemingly always while playing music or at an art show. Herbert, a local singer-songwriter well known for fronting the folky-rock jam band Cosmic Groove Lizards, is also known in the area for his artwork.
Cheerful and buoyant, Herbert was in the back of Muddy Muse Pottery, located on Castle Street, working on a new painting. He maintains a work area there, canvases spread out and artwork for sale at the front of the shop. Behind him was a curious painting of downtown Wilmington, Front Street. In the foreground was a large reptile – the world renown Godzilla. The classic character was stomping its way down Front Street, eyeing the buildings on the left.
“That one is sort of inspired by the Wilmington film industry,” Herbert said, referring to the state of things.
Off to the side in the corner was a large piece he’d done a while back of The Soapbox, the downtown music venue that closed last year. It, like the other paintings he’s done of local establishments (watering holes and eateries alike), featured curious denizens standing out front. On the sidewalk outside of The Soapbox were people, or rather, skeletal versions of themselves.
The addition of these characters adds personality to the painting, suggesting the after hours clientele that once frequented it. Or the Duck ‘N Dive piece that features animals standing like people outside on the sidewalk. These additions, though not to all of them, are what make the colorful, splashy images Herbert paints interesting.
For instance, the painting of K-38 restaurant has a large group of penguins hanging around out front. It’s endearing enough that it almost goes unnoticed, but, then you do. Then you probably think, why not penguins?
That’s the spark of Herbert’s work, it’s happy, busy, and a little off-kilter. Hopefully, like life.