When Ed Trask first began painting murals on the sides of buildings in the 90s, it was technically vandalism, but now he is among many local artists who actually get commissioned to adorn a building with artwork. More presently, Trask’s work will be displayed in an exhibit at the Glave Kocen Gallery starting tomorrow.
Trask explained inspiration for the exhibit, “A return to mind of glint and glimmer”, resulted from coping with winter-time blues and the stress of his aging parents who are experiencing short-term memory loss.
One piece in the exhibit will be a large painting of a buzzard with flowers on the other side. The buzzard is associated with death and the flowers are meant to symbolize life. Trask cited inspiration came from visiting his mother on a good day as her garden had also bloomed with the changing of the season.
A lot of the exhibit will also feature identifiable landscapes around Richmond which Trask noted helped him cope.
“The only way to get out of this is to find the things that I think just bring love and light to me,” Trask said. “Fortunately a lot of it is [painting] different places around our city. So that’s what the show is about. It’s about finding a way to get back to that place of love, light and optimism.”
“That kind of sounds real hippified,” he followed up with a laugh.
But optimism is a theme that has been laced throughout a lot of Trask’s work.
In his earlier days as an artist, he wasn’t scoring gallery gigs and he had to find ways to force his work into the public eye. In his senior year of college at Virginia Commonwealth University, Trask began painting derelict buildings around Richmond.
“When I first started doing the illegal work, there were so many dilapidated buildings that were just seemingly rotting, so I started looking at these buildings as great canvasses,” Trask said. “In a way it was like a beacon to these buildings. Like, this should be a coffee shop or something should happen here.”
Trask explained that abandoned buildings hold potential to be something new.
“Neighborhoods deserve to have a sense of optimism that I think can only come from color and something creative of that nature,” Trask said.
Trask eventually joined a band and they toured around the United States and Europe where Trask continued to leave a painting in many of the cities he visited. He painted in cities like Washington D.C., San Francisco, Amsterdam and Berlin.
Berlin was an inspiring place for Trask. His first visit was in 1991, just shortly after East and West Germany had reunited into one democracy. At this time parts of the Berlin wall were still standing and Trask could see the art on them. Berlin also contains many buildings with murals and graffiti.
“It was really cool and it started to make me realize that this kind of art can be used for so many things,” Trask said. “It can be a beacon for change, but also it can be an immediate political statement. It starts conversations.”
Trask explained that the very fact that artwork can spark various conversations is very important to him.
In recent years he has been part of the organizational efforts behind the RVA Street Art Festival. The annual event showcases local talent, brings in outside talent and helps revitalize desolate parts of the city.
After volunteering to work with a group of people on a mural in Brazil for three weeks, Trask became inspired to apply some community engagement to things back home.
“Mural painting can be so ego-driven, but everything I wanted to do after that mural had to be community driven, and had to have something that gave back,” he said.
The festival which began as a passion project between Trask and city councilman Jon Baliles, has evolved into a non-profit organization whose proceeds go towards other art-based charities in Richmond.
“We do it out of love I guess,” he said.
Ed Trask’s exhibit will be on display at Glave Kocen Gallery from May 12 to June 3. The opening night reception will take place from 6 to 8 p.m on Friday.