trained as a boy to dance and sing, write and play, shoot and hunt, with doses of wonder delivered by parents who were both the black sheep of their families. Herring later took it all into a way. It is composed of a healthy combination of the lessons learned in the dairy business from his Dad, Henry Phillips Herring of Kentucky, and Janet May Mantel Herring of Montana. She taught him drawing and composition. Together they took a first born son and gave him a plate full of goodies.
His Dad was a Veteran of 66 missions as a tree-top gunner in the tail of a B25 in the Philippines. His mom was a surgical nurse who put paraplegic survivors of the European air war back together again.
They met at a restaurant in Ohio. Their dreams, the understanding of having been born free, the ruffian border mindset of their future home in Clint, Texas… all that was deposited into the stiff-necked son they named Billy.
Billy, the boy of Clint, Texas, became the first artist outside of New England to head up a mainline New York Art Society: Knickerbocker Artists; New York.
In 1993, the Governor of Texas, Ann Richards, nominated him to become the chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts under President Clinton. He lost out to an actress. He considers the loss no loss at all, believing it is not left to government to bring beauty back, but individuals. There is no higher expression of individualism than art, and there is no higher form of art than one rooted in the marketplace. The marketplace is the location, they say, of the ambrosia of the gods. That would be contrasted, says Herring, to the claims of the State, which at best is tasked with protecting the rights of individualism against the greatest disruptors of the market forces on Earth: Marx, Lenin, Mao, Pol Pot, Ho, Fidel, and all the various other junior-grade-trailblazers who rally under the murderous guise of the progressive mindset.
Herring believes in progress, but not in the context of modern art aesthetics. He’s an advocate of the artist as a Priest of Beauty and Duty... a dual role whereby he is both poet and warrior, serving his fellow man as an archetype of liberty under the noon day sun.
Herring is an advocate of an aesthetic ballet, combining line and color in a atmosphere of visual intoxication.
As for line, he uses it as a tongue on fire, letting it speak as it wishes.
As for color, he just quotes Bonnard, “Color seduced me, so I use it seductively.”
He is a champion of “open color,” as celebrated by the expressionists among the masters, choosing to turn his back on “local color,” used by the impressionists.
All in all, he believes art should sell itself. Letting his paintings do the work, then, is his style. He takes no commissions. He celebrated that position about 20 years ago when he turned down a $12 million commission by the new head of the Special Olympics of El Paso, Texas. He prefers to let The Almighty send assignments to his soul. All such assignments eventually get to the museums and homes for which they are assigned.
Style comes with a combination of two elements; mastery of medium and maturity of character. Failure to cultivate either is a disqualifier.
Why does style count?
Oscar Wilde may have answered that question best: “Only style makes anyone believe anything. Style alone. Most of our modern painters are doomed to absolute oblivion, for they don’t paint what they see but what the public sees –and the public doesn’t see anything.”
As for art forms, Herring has three: visual expression, the literary arts, and the combative way of karate. His time is consumed, as when a thirsty man drinks down a glass of water on a hot day, by all three. They are housed, if you will, in and around a healthy family life, built around his mate for life, his college sweetheart from Brady, Texas – Kay Konze Herring, and their four daughters- all of whom were taught to mud-wrestle and take no lip.
This is the way he goes.
One Additional Point on Attitude;
Herring is possessed. By what? A conviction crying out of his natural man: being a purist is a pathology of mind. He, therefore, exults in the combinative spirit, bringing an apperceptive mass to every work. In other words, no option is off the table when it comes to doing whatever it takes to make beauty happen. Beauty is located where zest lives. Zest lives wherever there are the Helenistic Greek standards of beauty: idealization, refinement, and simplicity. Given that objective view, Herring adds a sort of subjective madness, letting the orchestration of decorative flourish invite symbolism to convey to the audience whatever intuition says.
He will glue on anything, stitch on anything, stomp, weld or carry the bags for any surface treatment that satisfies his eye: tiny mirrors, feathers, things that go hello, and things that say goodbye.
As Whistler, Herring does not believe in art for any other purpose than art. He therefore rejects the need for messages, statements, slogans, and creeds. His painting process eliminates the whole general lot of expectations inculcated by “official painting,” including a focal point, use of the golden mean, contrasting the darkest dark next to the lightest light, center of interest and the super-spooky task of evoking a mood. He, like Gaugin, abandons cast shadows, and is flat in his approach to surface decoration. Herring has adopted, again by nature, cool/warm constructions, and turned away, as did the Impressionists, from light/dark color paradigms.
Philosophically, he is in the same camp as Renoir, who said at age 43 that “impressionism is a dead end…they that practice it can neither draw nor compose.” And he continued, “The great thing about our movement is that I am now free to paint flowers, and just let them be flowers without the need to say something…just beauty for beauty’s sake.”
Amen and Amen