COMMUNITY BAKERY ON Sunday mornings and early afternoons is reliable, a place built on consistency and sameness. Church schedules tend to dictate the customer flow. Apple turnovers and bear claws and The New York Times Sunday Edition disappear, maple danishes tend to linger (thank goodness). Visit enough, and some people and their habits become familiar, ingrained in landscape and memory.
If you’ve visited the bakery in the past three years, perhaps, sifting through your memories, you might recall seeing a middle-aged guy hunched over his table working on linotypes, carving out faces, or filling sheets of paper with highly detailed figures, coloring them with markers. But to see him, singularly focused, fully immersed in the brightly colored world of his own making, you likely wouldn’t expect to see that work again—and certainly not, say, sheathing a building in downtown Little Rock.
In late October, that same artist, Perrion Hurd, laid those same sheets of paper, taped together, end to end in a long caterpillar line, face up on the concrete floor of his light-filled studio space.
A few feet away, stretching across the entire room, were three of their still-in-the-works banner-length counterparts, each every inch of 6 by 20 feet. On that day, you could see figures with coronas and circles around their heads, circular forms of bowls, drums, fire and hearts. A few days before, they’d been solidly “Minion yellow,” Perrion says, but now they were filled with solid bright colors—purples, blues, greens, reds. Even 70 percent finished, they were astounding to see. And to see them filling the space, it’s jarring to realize that, as Perrion says, “these are the smallest ones.” All told, when Perrion’s work is unveiled at the Mosaic Templars building on February 6, there will be eight banners. Eight. And the exhibition space downstairs? Oh, he’s gotta fill that, too.
Although he makes a point of saying that he was “terrified” and “freaking out” at the outset of the project, Perrion says, “all of that imposter syndrome melts away after a good four to six hours of working at it.”
In considering all of this, however, the work, the scale, there’s a really important point to stress: It’s not as though Perrion woke up one day and got asked to do this. For the past several years, he’s been building to this point, each experience building on the back of another. Although the now-47-year-old artist’s roots go back decades—he remembers drawing a giant “E” in aqua pastel chalk with purple and lavender highlights the night his daughter was born in 1993—his more recent history can be traced to 2012, when he had landed a chance gig painting a utility box in Argenta. That led to work for friends and commissions from kind strangers—which then, in turn, led to a spot in the artWORKS Artist Workshop Series, and an opportunity to paint the drain cover at Community Bakery, and an interest in linoleum blocks and sales in the Crystal Bridges museum store. And eventually, all of those layers led him … here, standing in a light-filled studio, looking down at banners that were once sketches he’d done at Community Bakery.
“You know, regular people really aren’t all that regular,” Perrion says. “We pass each other in the street every day, and we only see the exterior of what a person really is. And we make those snap judgments. That’s just part of what we do. … I guess I want people to know that maybe scratch the surface a little bit deeper, start talking to people, and you’ll see that guy sitting at the coffee bar who seems like he’s just drawing. He’s got big plans.”
See the full scale of Perrion’s work when it’s unveiled at Little Rock’s Mosaic Templars Cultural Center at 6 p.m. on February 6.