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Mastering the art

Luzerne County Community College’s commercial-art students re-create famous works of art for “Old Masters 2006” exhibit

This scary creature is the ‘Head of Medusa,’ painted by Joel Shambe of Dupont in the style of Michelangelo Caravaggio.

TIMES LEADER STAFF PHOTO/S. JOHN WILKIN

Brandon Bicking and Beth Kaszmetskie check out the student artwork in the ‘Old Masters 2006’ show which opened the new Schulman Gallery at Luzerne County Community College. The exhibit will be on display through Jan. 31.

TIMES LEADER STAFF PHOTOS/S. JOHN WILKIN

When Patricia Smith of Shavertown re-created the style of Vincent Van Gogh in his ‘Self Portrait,’ she tried to be exact to the point where one side of the background is darker than the other.

Oh, look, there’s Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa” … and Vincent Van Gogh’s self-portrait … and Salvador Dali’s crucifixion scene ...

At first glance, you might wonder how Luzerne County Community College managed to snag so many famous works for the opening of its new Schulman Gallery.

Eventually, comprehension would dawn. This “Old Masters 2006” exhibit doesn’t really house the works of the old masters, but, instead, re-creations that emerged from the college’s commercial-art program.

It’s a way for the students to learn about different styles, said instructor Michael Molnar, who encouraged each student to choose the artist he or she wanted to emulate.

For Patricia Smith of Shavertown, it was no contest. She loves the way Van Gogh used all the hues of the rainbow.

“He absolutely reveled in color,” she said, standing before her own blue-on-blue version of “The Starry Night” during last weekend’s opening reception.

“He used about 10 pounds of paint per canvas. He’d actually squirt it on, right out of the tube.”

Van Gogh also painted rapidly, said Dolores Vida of Dupont, who felt a kinship with him as she quickly painted his “Popppies” and “Almond Branch.”

“Look at the ‘Churchgoers,’ ” she said, pointing to yet another Van Gogh re-creation – this one depicting worshippers walking toward a chapel. Perhaps because there wasn’t much detail to their faces or clothes, “it suggests so much movement.”

For an image that fairly pops with motion, you might want to gaze at Mark Harchar’s re-creation of Herbert Draper’s “The Flying Fish,” which shows a sea nymph jumping from the waves to try to catch a tiny winged creature.

“I like the shine of her wet skin,” Harchar said. “With the proper lighting, it almost glows.”

While that scene seems to burst with energy, other Draper paintings Harchar re-created are comparatively calm. “The Land Locked Bay” is smooth, with nary a ripple in the water, and “Potpourri” shows a girl demurely sorting a profusion of flowers.

“I wanted to try these roses because there were so many, and there was such detail in each petal. I wanted to see what would happen,” Harchar said.

“I like the dramatic lighting on her face,” he said, indicating a shadow that hints at … what?

“It keeps her muted and brings out the flowers.”

“She may be looking to make her own artistic potpourri,” Harchar said, musing about the subject.

Nineteenth-century artist Berthe Morisot also painted a person seated at a table, this one called “Woman at her Toilette.”

“I love her brush strokes and all her domestic scenes, because I’ve been a domestic engineer myself,” said Charlotte Kindler of Shavertown, who re-created several Impressionist-style Morisot paintings.

“This is her sister,” Kindler said, pointing to a picture of a woman keeping watch over a child in a cradle. “This is her daughter Julia,” she said, pointing to a girl with a ribbon. “I feel that I got to know her whole family.”

Morisot’s family also included the famous painter, Eduard Manet, who became her brother-in-law and painted a portrait of Morisot in his own style. Kindler re-created that as well.

Like Kindler, Joel Shambe chose to imitate more than one old master. He paid homage to several biblical scenes rendered by Michelangelo Caravaggio, as well as a crucifixion done by Dali. “It’s the lighting and the draftsmanship” he admires about both artists.

What does it mean for a painting to exhibit draftsmanship?

To answer, Shambe pointed to the arm of the biblical David as it held the severed head of the giant Goliath toward the viewer.

“See how the head appears so much closer. It gives the illusion of depth.”

The art students whose work is on display are an eclectic group, ranging from 13-year-old Nova Price of Dallas, who took the course with her father, Tom, to 74-year-old Joseph Brady of Swoyersville, who painted a portrait of the biblical Deborah.

After the exhibit ends in January, Brady wants to present the portrait to Dr. Norman Schulman and his wife, Roxanne, whose donation established the gallery in the college’s Campus Center.

“The men were all cowards, and Deborah led them to war against the Philistines,” Brady said. “She was like Joan of Arc.”

IF YOU GO If you go

What: “Old Masters 2006”

Who: Painted by commercial-art students.

Where: On exhibit at the Schulman Gallery in the Campus Center at Luzerne County Community College

When: 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays, noon to 3 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, through Jan. 31

Admission: Free.

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