Will Heron, aka “Wheron,” would prefer if you didn’t put him in a box labeled “just a commercial artist who makes T-shirts.”
You’ve seen the high school art teacher’s work in the form of murals, prints and growlers at tap houses, coffee shops and businesses all over town, including Local Press + Brew, Motor Sisters Ice Cream and City Surf Fitness. If you’re lucky, you’ve been to a Friday the 13th show at his studio space, The Platform, and walked out with a Wheron-designed tattoo.
“We call it The Platform because the property backs up to the West Dallas rails, and we like to think of the space as a creative hub of multiple trains of artistic thought,” Heron says. “And of course, the double entendre of the house being an unusual platform for Dallas artists and their work to be seen even if it’s not in a white-walled, fancy gallery space.”
The Platform is a 1940s home with several large rooms and nooks that are completely gutted and redone for each open house — including the bathrooms.
“With it being an old house-turned-studio, we have the freedom to mural the inside and outside, plant the bathtub full of cacti, or turn the front porch into an indoor greenhouse,” he says. “We will be celebrating the one-year birthday of The Platform in March with an open studio and birthday party where we will introduce the back house space, the ‘caboose,’ which will serve as more collaborative art space and the working studio space for my art friend Laura Davidson.”
Since opening in March 2016, The Platform has hosted multiple open studios and collaborative art experiences. Heron worked with Eric Rodriguez, Shamsy Roomiani, Dyemond O’bryan and nine other Dallas-based artists for Plantbased in September 2016.
“When you walk into The Platform you are a part of it,” O’bryan says. “Everywhere you walk and look is something you can’t help but smile at. Every room is a beautifully curated collection of sculptures, still lifes, plants and paintings; everything you want to see and things you never thought of.”
Now many of The Platform’s shows also offer an opportunity to get some permanent ink designed by Heron. He started out giving temporary tattoos at his shows but graduated to the real deal for his first solo show, Texidermy, in November 2015.
He’s since kept up the Friday the 13th tattoo tradition at two more shows — Prick in May 2016 and Menagerie earlier this month — which means you may start seeing his work on skin more frequently than on walls. Heron starts by creating 13 designs that correspond with the art being shown at that particular event then on-site tattoo artists lay on the ink for $13 plus tip.
“Texidermy [designs] included cactus skulls and scorpions; Prick [designs] included safety pins and narwhals, and Menagerie [designs] included kitty cats and ‘Audubon-dage’ birds,” Heron says. “The tattoos are a fun way to support the new bodies of artwork."
Heron’s style and artistry is influenced by Keith Haring and Andy Warhol, and he’s also a major fan of street artists Shepard Fairey, Space Invader and Cleon Peterson. But he’s most inspired by his art contemporaries here in Dallas including Francisco Moreno and Dan Lam, whose work has been purchased by none other than Miley Cyrus herself.
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Born and raised in Dallas, Heron uses prickly plants as well as black and white graphic art to define his standout style.
“I see the cacti as a malleable medium for me to create surreal, graphic illustrations and artworks that pay homage to my Southern roots,” he says. “A lot of my work creates what I like to call ‘visual puns’ that use certain imagery in multiple ways. For example, using cacti, light bulbs, and skulls interchangeably because of the bulbous shape they all share. In my upcoming Entendre solo show, I will be diving deeper into many of these double entendres and visual wordplays in 2-D mixed media and mural works.”
Want to see his prickly work in person? Check out 28 grams at Fort Works Art Gallery (2100 Montgomery St., Fort Worth) in March. The show will feature Wheron and 27 other artists. You can also see his solo exhibition, Entendre, at East Field College (3737 Motley Drive, Mesquite) beginning April 1.
The Platform is located at 410 Fabrication St. For more info, see Facebook.