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ART FEATURE: They might be giants


The newest manifestation of "Wall/Therapy" — the mural project that has resulted in more than a dozen large-scale works throughout downtown Rochester — has brought German street-art duo Herakut to Rochester to create an off-season mural at 218 Andrews Street. Herakut stayed in Rochester from October 13 through October 18 and completed a six-story image of a character for their international Giant Storybook Project, in which each wall they paint serves as a teaser for the children's book they are planning to create with actor Jim Carrey.

Herakut is made up of Hera (Jasmin Siddiqui) and Akut (Falk Lehmann), a duo that has been traveling the world to paint murals for many years, both separately and as a pair since 2004. Given their fantastical style, many people have been asking when the pair would do children's work, says Dave Sheldon of Clandestine Management, a California-based company that manages the artists. "They had a story in mind already, and [were] putting some characters together, and said, why not try to create a children's book about this?" Herakut decided to introduce some of the characters through their international mural-making. The Giant Storybook Project launched this year and will continue through the winter of 2013.

The artists' first connection with Carrey came when they were commissioned to create a piece for his backyard, says Caspar Martin, also of Clandestine Management. "They were both really inspired by the collaborative process. Jasmine and Falk have been working on this story for a while now, and working with Jim on expanding it," he says.

The Giant Storybook Project is planned to culminate with a print piece, says Akut. "We will make something like a graphic-novel illustration book," and are creating as many murals as possible, which will be the ground for the illustration work, he says.

"These murals are not necessarily going to be page-for-page illustrations in the book," says Sheldon, "they are going to be inspirations for scenes." During the painting process and after the work is finished, Akut painstakingly documents the murals, which will be digitally manipulated for such considerations as character uniformity.

Though the pair possessed their street names before uniting, it's interesting to note the significance of their names when considering the way they work together. Hera, the name of a goddess, is the shaper of the images, and Akut, which is German for acute, is the detailer.

After painting in Rochester, Herakut planned to paint two walls in San Francisco, then two more in Miami, one of which is six stories tall, a bit wider than the Rochester work. The largest wall they've painted thus far was in Mexico earlier this year, with a character whose eye was the size of the massive face on the character they have painted in Rochester.

The heavily stylized character they painted in the St. Paul district is visible from afar, and captivating up close. A man stands cradling a tree in one hand, his own arms guided by silvery limbs emerging from an amorphous spirit that also manifests as a snarling lion's head above his own. A deer stands beside the giant, wary and seemingly about to sprint away, and a squirrel has launched itself from the tree, shaking leaves loose. Spirit-serpents emerge from the silver mass to snap after the mammal. The man's face has darkened around his eyes, and the work shimmers with potentially vicious power.

"Our children's book is about creative energy," says Hera. The project encompasses small things, such as the languages that children make up, and the larger ways in which they create and dwell within their own worlds. The characters include a little girl, Lily, a creative teenager, Jay, and two giants "who are basically in charge of the world, of finding a balance there," says Hera.

The Rochester mural depicts one of the giants from the story. "His creative power is a bit more destructive than what a kid could come up with," says Hera. "He's at this point with his strength, his powers, with his size... You know, it can be really helpful, what he does, but also really destructive. That whole thing with playing with fire — his power is maybe taking over. That's why you can see the creative spirit, that's the silver creature around him, not only guiding him, but maybe already has taken over. We'll add writing, we haven't quite figured out the right words." But, she says, it will be something along lines of, "You had better control your power before your power controls you."

A Synthesis Collaborative update

In December, Dr. Ian Wilson, co-founder of Synthesis Collaborative and founder of "Wall/Therapy," will travel to Haiti with a delegation from the Hope Haiti foundation, a Rochester-based non-profit that supports healthcare systems in Borgne, Haiti. The team plans to evaluate the hospital in Borgne to assess its needs for diagnostic imaging and also evaluate process to figure out how best to implement the diagnostic imaging initiative called IMPACT, which stands for Improving Access to Care by Teleradiology. Wilson will also present on "Wall/Therapy" at TEDx on November 5 at Geva Theatre.

Wilson has been following the work of Herakut for several years, and met the artists when he attended an art opening for their show in London in late May of this year. Wilson traveled with them to Bristol U.K. for Upfest, where they painted. In July, Wilson brought Hera's brother-in-law, Case, to paint in Rochester during the summer "Wall/Therapy" initiative. When Wilson wanted to bring Herakut to Rochester in the off-season, local property owner Daniel Morgenstern was ready with another brick canvas on Andrews Street.

The print project documenting "Wall/Therapy," sponsored by Partners + Napier, is projected to be complete by early December. This "augmented reality project" includes print media with links to digital content that explains the murals and articulates the common thread between the mural project and the medical philanthropy, says Wilson. For more information, visit