"The Hive," a solo exhibition from multi-media Columbus artist Walter Herrmann currently on display at the Cultural Arts Center, is the consummation of the last three years of his experiences and work. Herrmann's gone through a number of significant changes in that time, both personally and professionally, and through it all he's leaned on his own community for support.

“The Hive,” a solo exhibition from multi-media Columbus artist Walter Herrmann currently on display at the Cultural Arts Center, is the consummation of the last three years of his experiences and work. Herrmann’s gone through a number of significant changes in that time, both personally and professionally, and through it all he’s leaned on his own community for support.

“I picked a basic theme of community because I’m really so fortunate to have a strong community around me. [Columbus is] fortunate to have a strong art community in the first place, but my personal community is very loving, supportive people. Just to have one of them — let alone all of them — is fortunate,” Herrmann said during an interview at the Cultural Arts Center, where “The Hive” will have a reception from 6-8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 20 and an artist’s talk from 12-1 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 26.

During the opening days of the exhibit, Herrmann, with the assistance of curator Eric Rausch and artist Ric Stewart (whom Herrmann used to share a studio with for eight years), constructed 13 hives out of thousands of wood blocks cut from 12 tons of found and salvaged lumber. Each one of the hives represents one component of Herrmann’s community, with the centerpiece representing all.

“All my shows have been very personal, but this definitely has more personal notes attached to it than any other exhibit or build. The amount of community that it takes to do one of these — I guarantee half the people that attend the show or the reception have donated to this experience in some way, shape or form,” Herrmann said. “This is really an ode to the greatness everybody has brought to my life, especially the last few years. It made me focus on appreciating who is in my life, why they’re there, how they’ve affected me and to never take them for granted. To focus on a theme like that really helps put things into perspective. It’s a really beautiful thing to experience.”

Herrmann is the first to admit that “The Hive” may be his brainchild, but could’ve never happened without his personal network. A good portion of materials — copper and circuit boards from donated electronics and the massive amount of wood — were donated by artists, acquaintances and friends. Herrmann said he spent less than $100 on materials in part because, “I didn’t even have to search for materials … I couldn’t even get into my studio because a pile of stuff had been dropped off.”

Herrmann also found materials in his professional community, taking scrap wood from the recent construction projects at Columbus Idea Foundry and Glass Axis near his studio at 400 West Rich in Franklinton.

The countless interactions and conversations about “The Hive” with fellow artists and creatives, including Rausch’s assistance since the exhibit was originally scheduled, were of the utmost import. Herrmann altered his theme and concepts a couple times, having many conversations with Rausch throughout. And many of those elements remain, as conversions of the original, because “The Hive” encompasses Herrmann’s varied practices.

“Listening to the way he’s been talking about it … and how I witnessed it, it was a pretty clear process. What landed on this final iteration of all these things coming together, was taking everything that he’s done. This show, the way I look at it, is combining everything that has driven Walt to be an artist,” Rausch said.

Augmenting the massive wood installations is a collection of smaller pieces; more than two dozen pieces depicting insects and elements of nature layered upon maps and geometric backgrounds adorn the walls of the gallery. These appear to be two-dimensional works, but the tier effect results in a three-dimensional aesthetic.

While “The Hive” is decidedly representative of Herrmann’s life the last few years, it’s also a venture into his future works. Three pieces, one using striking copper cocoons inside a black bento box-like frame and two alabaster stone carvings juxtaposed with circuit backdrops, are the beginnings of a forthcoming series of work.

The most important component of creating “The Hive” is Herrmann realizing how to fuse his two-and-three dimensional techniques along with the indoor and outdoor environs he works in, while generating an economical way to build a sustainable installation practice with the salvaged and recycled materials. It’s resulted in Herrmann at his prime.

“This has been the strongest transition in my work, as far as ideas and thoughts [relating to] the transition from my earth works outdoors to these urban works indoors. It’s such a big leap and separates me from other artists,” Herrmann said. “Even though this is an arduous thing, it’s so worth it to dazzle the public. You can walk in here and relate to this, but at the same time you’ve probably never had an experience like this and you’re probably never going to again.”

Photos by Meghan Ralston