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Student's rendering of 'The Last Supper' earns praise

January 12, 2004|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

WARFORDSBURG, Pa. - Painting on walls has gotten a lot of teenagers in trouble, but Amanda Stohl's work is earning her praise.

The Southern Fulton High School sophomore completed her rendering of Leonardo da Vinci's "The Last Supper" in December, using the wall of the social hall of Damascus Christian Church in Thompson Township, Pa., as her canvas.

"We were all down here looking at it this morning," Jean Shives, a member of the church, said Sunday. "We're thinking of having an open house so that anyone who would like to see it could come."

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Shives said the genesis of the mural was her desire to brighten up a blank wall in the church's basement kitchen.

"She called my art teacher and asked if a student could come and do a mural on the wall," Stohl said. Teacher Carolyn Mottern asked Stohl if she would be interested in the project.

For the kitchen, Stohl painted a window scene, brightening the basement view with a perpetually sunny day and painted curtains meticulously modeled after a set she saw in a J.C. Penney Co. Inc. catalog.

Shives told Stohl she was thinking the wall of the social hall could use some decoration, as well, and suggested something along the lines of "The Last Supper."

"Well, she just kind of got to work on it," Shives said.

Stohl used a great-grandmother's copy of da Vinci's masterpiece, but encountered problems trying to reproduce the work by mapping a grid on the painted cinder block wall, which proved to be too rough and uneven. Instead, she did a freehand sketch in pencil.

Da Vinci's work, which has clung precariously to the wall of the refectory of another church, the Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan, Italy, is a fresco of oil and tempera that was applied to wet plaster. Stohl worked in a different medium.

"It was regular house paint," said Stohl, who used eight or nine pints of satin-finish latex to mix all the hues.

Da Vinci took about three years to complete "The Last Supper," sometimes working in only a few strokes a day on the 30-foot-by-14-foot work.

Stohl, 16, completed her 20-foot-wide version in 52 hours spread out over several months and earned more than the gratitude of the church.

"I did it as a graduation project," Stohl said. "It really wasn't planned that way until I started doing it."

"I'm sure a lot of kids put that off," said Stohl's mother, Brenda Bard. Now, Bard is hoping her daughter's artworks and honor-roll grades earn her a college scholarship.

"I'll research that more next year," Stohl said when asked what colleges she is interested in attending.

When it came to the figures of Christ and the apostles, she spent the most time on Jesus "because I wanted to get him just right." Perhaps coincidentally, there is a real window above Christ's head, while da Vinci painted one behind the fresco's central figure.

She did take some artistic license.

"The painting I was going off was a really dull color, so I brightened it up because this room needed color," Stohl said.

The church was impressed enough to install track lighting to further highlight the mural, Shives said.

Stohl's painting is unlikely to suffer the indignities that have chipped and faded da Vinci's "The Last Supper" over more than six centuries. Since 1498, it has sustained damage from flooding and the elements, along with the man-made insults of having a door cut through the wall a few centuries ago and the building being bombed by the Allies during World War II. Napoleon's troops even used the refectory as a stable.

Sketching has been Stohl's primary medium to this point, but she has been expanding into painting. She even has a commission for another mural, this time for an original work.

"I've got another job lined up doing someone else's basement," she said. "They're hunters, so they want deer."

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