Artist's mural will test the waters

Unveiling of David F. Heatwole's latest work to be part of Relay for Life activities

March 28, 2012|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD |
  • David F. Heatwole stands next to "Spring Fling," a mural that will be unveiled April 21 in downtown Martinsburg, W.Va. The mural unveiling is scheduled to be part of a weeklong series of American Cancer Society Relay for Life awareness activities that begin on April 16.
By Yvette May, Staff Photographer

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — “Spring Fling,” a large mural by artist David F. Heatwole, is set to be unveiled April 21 in downtown Martinsburg, one water balloon splat at a time.

For the unveiling at 301 N. Queen St., Heatwole is inviting people to throw water balloons at the 8-foot-by-20-foot artwork, which he plans to cover with water-soluble paper so the mural will be revealed like pieces of a puzzle.

“I’m really excited about the unveiling,” Heatwole said.

Heatwole said Wednesday that he plans to draw targets on the paper for those who want to help unveil his latest public art project. Donated prizes will be awarded, and donations will be collected to benefit Timmy’s Fund, an organization that supports families who are battling childhood cancer.

The mural unveiling is scheduled to be part of a weeklong series of American Cancer Society Relay for Life awareness activities in downtown Martinsburg that begin on April 16 with a kickoff celebration at town square for “Paint the Town Purple.”


Randy Lewis, executive director of Main Street Martinsburg, said the mural unveiling is “a great addition” to the slate of “Paint the Town Purple” activities, which include a high-heel shoe race and street festival. 

Heatwole, 42, said he has worked 50 to 60 hours on the mural since devoting 20 minutes each morning to the project about a month ago. He estimated he still has about 20 hours of work left to finish it.

Heatwole said he still needs a scissor lift or a cherry picker to install the mural, which will face southbound traffic on Queen Street at the Race Street intersection. 

To paint a colorful landscape symbolic of spring, Heatwole has used more than a dozen cans and several tubes of latex and acrylic paint. The five-panel mural spans from a bright sun and cloud-dotted sky at the top to multiple clusters of flowers at the bottom. In between are trees, water, hills and farmland.

Flying among the flowers are seven flies or bees, which Heatwole said represent the members of his family. He and his wife, Dawn, have five adopted children.

The mural, which Heatwole admits reflects influential abstract impressionist Jackson Pollock’s drip or dribble painting style, has a little more depth to it, Heatwole said.

“I like Jackson Pollock, but people read into the stuff so much, it’s kind of like how can you psychoanalyze all that dribble,” Heatwole said. “That’s what it is, dribble.”

“Spring Fling” is the second mural project Heatwole has planned for downtown Martinsburg. His “Put a Lid on It” mural was displayed at 404 W. King St. for a little more than two years.

Composed of thousands of bottle caps and lids, the 8-foot-by-16-foot depiction of artist Vincent van Gogh’s famous self-portrait is expected to be reinstalled at an arts center in Lost River, W.Va., Heatwole said.

While the lid mural was vulnerable to weather conditions, his latest project is more traditional and will be waterproofed and treated to protect it from ultraviolet light. The panels also can be removed from the building at any time without affecting its appearance, Heatwole said.

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