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Artist blends memories into painting

January 13, 2003|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

Armed only with a black-and-white photograph and her own childhood memories of a beloved church building, Marjorie Tressler set out to create a painting worthy to hang in the sanctuary of St. Andrew's United Methodist Church on Maryland Avenue.

But more than just a static painting of a building, Tressler wanted her work to reflect her belief that a church is the people who come together to worship Jesus Christ.

And accomplish that she did, as congregation leaders and members commented recently on the beauty and spirituality of the 5-by-7-foot gilt-framed oil painting that graces the back wall of the church.

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"The idea was born in 1999 when Gerald Holmes, chairman of the administrative council, approached me about such a project," Tressler said.

Several days after the painting was erected in the church in late December, Holmes and Tressler met in the sun-lit sanctuary, along with the Rev. Betty Dunlop, pastor of the church.

"We wanted to blend the old with the new," Holmes said as he admired the huge work of art. "And Marjorie did just that."

Now an acclaimed portrait artist living in Waynesboro, Pa., Tressler was a child attending the former church building on Howard Street that she painted into a corner of the artwork at the "new" church building that was first occupied in 1960.

"I'm known for doing children in my art, not bricks and mortar," Tressler said. "So I combined the two."

Dominating the scene is Jesus dressed as she expects he would have been in his lifetime. Surrounding him are boys and girls of modern days, barefoot in their innocence but obviously youngsters of the modern day.

"Some of the children are neighbors of mine, while one is my grandson, Chris," Tressler said.

As for Jesus, Tressler said she located a model who not only agreed to pose for the painting but also to let his hair and beard grow for the project.

"I painted Howard Street as I remember seeing it while growing up," Tressler said. "I thought of all in the congregation who influenced me, those who encouraged me and those who always treated me as a responsible young person."

But Tressler said she especially wanted to do the painting and donate it to the church because of all those who helped her grow into the love of Christ.

"I was baptized in this church and married in this church," Tressler said. "My children were baptized here - it is very special to me."

The painting is titled "All Of God's Children Come To Me" and is dedicated to the memory of Tressler's parents, Leland and Margaret Myers, and her grandparents, Frank and Margaret Nield, and in honor of her aunt, Anna Grace Wilson, as well as the members of the congregation.

Tressler had a solo exhibition at Washington County Museum of Fine Arts in 1993 and has several works on permanent display in the community. Her latest work has been a big hit with the members of her former congregation.

"Now we have something beautiful to share with the community," Holmes said.

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