Introducing OLP’s 135th Anniversary Mural
By Michael Stringer, Art Department
The recent completion of OLP’s 135th Anniversary Mural in the Chapel Courtyard is a culmination of about a year’s worth of work. The composition and design of the 6x20 ft. mural depicts important events in the history and journey of the Sisters of St. Joseph and the Academy of Our Lady of Peace. Working from left to right, both figurative and architectural elements create a visual timeline that starts in Le Puy, France, and ends on OLP’s campus. Much preliminary and investigative work went into the creative design of the mural with over 30 current and former students working on it.
A lot of work was done in preparation for the mural before one drop of paint was applied to the wall. The original rough draft pencil drawing, or “gesture drawing,” was later fine-tuned with a more finished watercolor painting that gave a better idea of color and lace patterns that would be ultimately used in the finished mural. These lace stencil patterns are based off the original lace dollies that the Sisters of St. Joseph made in Le Puy, France, and are an important design element that helps unify the overall composition. Pictures of original Le Puy lace were projected onto large pieces of Mylar using an Epson projector. The students then traced the lace pattern using a sharpie. They cut out the stencil pattern using a special stencil cutting heat pen.
Collecting good visual historical references for both people and places was the next phase in the preliminary process. Crisp images of Mother St. John Fontbonne, Father Antonio Urbach, and the Seven Sisters were vital references for the painters. Also, important architectural references such as Le Puy, France, the St. Louis Cabin, Downtown OLP circa 1925, and the current Carondelet building were just as important. We tried to utilize all the various skills and particular talents of our wonderful artists. Some students are good at landscapes; others are wonderful face painters; and still others are great at both drawing and painting architecture. Some of the current students who made major contributions to the mural are Michelle Payne ‘18, Mackenzie Lewis ‘18, Lily Hoang ‘19, and Ava Van Vechten ‘19.
We started the process of drawing out the mural on the night of the 135th Anniversary Celebration (May 10). The original 9”x30” mural design was divided into a grid of 1”x1” in pen. These grids were then drawn to 8”x8” using a snap line to fit the Chapel Courtyard wall. Students then “plugged in” what was drawn on the small original to the larger wall. In many cases, multiple students worked on the same part of the mural. For example, the large image of Mary near the bottom of the mural was originally drawn by two students and then painted with acrylic by two other students. Because of the many different parts of the mural, and the detail required to finish those parts, the mural took the entire month of June to finish. Many former art students volunteered their time to help finish this process. Hannah Patrico ‘11, Danni Garcia ‘11, Lucia Ventura ‘15, Isabel Tabao ‘15 and Alejandra Cruz ‘14 were instrumental in helping finish various areas in the painting. One of our newest alumnae, Adia Magill ‘17, also had significant contributions to the mural and generously volunteered to help multiple times during the month of June.
“The painting has a life of its own. I try to let it come through.” - Jackson Pollock, 1949. As with any art piece, the mural did start to evolve a bit during the painting process. One of those evolutions was the addition of bougainvillea flowers and leaves to the overall composition. This was done to take advantage of the existing bougainvillea tree that stands over the mural wall, and mimic those same flower blooms. The idea was to integrate the design better into the current Chapel Courtyard space. The final process for the mural was the stenciling of the lace patterns throughout the overall composition. A great deal of prep work had been done in the art studio to experiment with different ways of applying the paint with the lace stencils. Various brushes, sponge techniques, colors, etc. were utilized to find what process would be best. The final result of lace patterns on the mural really helped unify the entire composition and literally “tie” it together.
It was a pleasure working with such a wonderful pool of art students during this process. Things run smoothly when you have all that talent! The great thing about a project like this is the ability to utilize all of the different intelligences our students possess, which allows them to flourish in the specific areas they already gravitate towards.