The mural depicting Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott as a character from the film “Get Out” didn’t last long. After being painted in a spot called Fabrication Yard in Dallas, the image went viral and was quickly defaced and painted over. Now Arlington artist Trey Wilder has reproduced his mural in a Fort Worth shopping mall.
Wilder has been working as a large scale painter for a couple years, often doing commercial paintings of athletes and comic book superheroes. But making a name for himself by going viral has encouraged him to explore new work.
“I can start doing my own thing and people will accept it,” Wilder says. “The commercial work is no pressure. People tell me what they want on the wall. But there is a lot of pressure for this show because I am painting strictly from my mind.”
With his first gallery show, “I Ain’t Dirty I Just Paint A Lot,” at Fort Worth’s Ridgmar Mall, Wilder’s transition from painting public murals to exhibiting his art is seamless. He is simply moving the murals indoors.
“I sprayed in the gallery,” Wilder explains. “There was nothing to transfer. I was trying to not get caught up in the hype and just do a really good job of duplicating it.”
Wilder got the idea for his viral image while listening to The Breakfast Club, the popular syndicated radio show. During a discussion on Prescott’s opposition to players taking a knee during the national anthem, the show featured an audio reference to “Get Out,” the iconic film with a unique take on racism.
“I just thought it was something cool that my friends at the yard would see,” he says. “Anytime you paint in that yard it can easily get covered up within a matter of minutes.
“I didn’t expect it to blow up. But it elicited emotional reactions and started a conversation. Art is supposed to elicit emotion and create dialogue. When those two come together, it’s a masterpiece.”
Just a few days after drawing inspiration from The Breakfast Club, Wilder was featured on the program as a guest.
Now his first solo show is in a shopping mall, but Wilder is not selling his work. The eight-foot murals on display are temporary, just like his original image that went viral.
“I just want people to enjoy the art,” Wilder says. “You can’t take it with you. Seeing it in person does it way more justice than a photo. You can see the craftsmanship and detail that goes into it.”
Wilder mostly prefers to work away from the garage he uses as a studio and prefers to paint with spray paint cans.
“I enjoy the physical aspect of large scale painting,” he explains. “And there’s something about seeing it on the wall. It baffles people.”
His show features other “mash-up” murals. One references Kanye West’s infamous relationship with President Donald Trump by putting the two together in an image that resembles the movie poster for Men in Black. Another presents the late rapper Tupac Shakur as Thanos from the movie “Avengers: Infinity War.”
Wilder sees the role of the artist as a truth-teller: “We didn’t read cavemen writing, we looked at their pictures. History is always captured in the artwork of the time.”
But he now prefers not to discuss his thoughts about “taking a knee” and Dak Prescott’s remarks. “Everyone is entitled to their own opinions,” Wilder says. “But I chose to express myself through art. Talking about it gets away from it being about the art. The art is why I went viral. I let other people discuss it.”
Indeed, Wilder was bombarded with comments of love and hate on social media.
“I got some really hateful comments, but you just laugh that stuff off,” he says. “Everybody can be a total badass on the computer. When you have people who really don’t like it, that means it’s really good.”
But he was glad to forget the hype and get busy with his first exhibition.
“Going viral is cool,” Wilder says. “It did help validate what I’m doing and gave me that extra push. But I won’t keep all the new followers unless I continuously produce quality work. It raised expectations and challenged me to do more risky work.”
And, just for the record: “I never said anything bad about Dak,” Wilder says. “I’m a Cowboys fan and he’s a great player. People see the image and automatically assume the worst.”
The reception for “I Ain’t Dirty I Just Paint A Lot” is from 8 to 11pm Saturday, Aug. 18 at Ridgmar Mall in Fort Worth. The exhibit will be open during regular mall hours through Aug. 26. (The exhibit is near the food court.)