|BR Walls project takes off|
His arms are already reddened by the late morning sun. In a bright sleeveless T-shirt, painter's cap and clear Buddy Holly glasses, Clark Derbes squints at the wide blocks of color he and artist Saliha Staib are putting up on the west-facing wall of Buzz Cafe and McGlynn Glisson and Mouton's downtown law office.
Derbes stands in the shade next to a scaffold—this is his first time working off the ground—while he develops a strategy for cleaning the building's windows. It's 10:30 a.m.; for today, that means lunchtime.
On loan from Burlington, Vt., where he lives and works with his wife and fellow artist Wylie Garcia, this LSU graduate is no stranger to the concrete, summer heat of Baton Rouge.
“I would stay in Louisiana longer, but I have to get my family on,” Derbes says.
He and Staib began work on the first mural for the BR Walls Project in the middle of June and locked themselves into a finite period for completing it.
“Saliha's flying out June 26,” Derbes says, combing a long, thin roller through a tin tray of navy blue paint warming on the asphalt. “And I'm flying out June 27, so we'll for sure be done by then.” They were, and by the time the two artists were in the air, BR Walls Project was posting pictures of the finished mural on the Internet.
Both artists are renowned painters, and Derbes' mural on the south side of Ephemeral Gallery still stands—albeit partially blocked by a government fence—but the BR Walls commission marked the first collaboration of this magnitude for both the New Orleans native and his French-born counterpart.
“You approach it just like any collaborative work, only it's on a larger scale,” Derbes says as he scans the first few days of work on the now-completed mural. “But we're not simply following a picture and using a grid to scale it up. We're really eyeballing everything; putting paint where it feels right.”
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