Making quite an impression

Students use steamroller for 'Van Gogh' work

Students use steamroller for 'Van Gogh' work

November 13, 2005|By RICHARD F. BELISLE

CHAMBERSBURG, PA. - The Wilson College art students winced as they watched a four-ton steamroller crush the 16 woodcuts of Vincent Van Gogh's "Starry Night" that they had painstakingly chiseled.

Their fears were allayed when the machine rolled off and the layers of carpeting, hardboard, two sheets of newsprint and the Japanese art paper were peeled off.

There in black-and-white splendor was a 40-inch-by-50-inch reproduction of Vincent's "Starry Night," which hangs in New York's Museum of Modern Art. The Dutch artist's original, painted in 1889, features shades of blue, orange, yellow and deep greens.


Robert Dickson, assistant professor of arts at Wilson, said he chose Van Gogh's work "because it has so much energy and movement. I thought it would lend itself to this goofy enterprise of ours."

Dickson said he also considered works by Mary Cassatt, a Pennsylvania impressionist in the 19th century, and those of other female artists "because Wilson is a women's college." He decided on Van Gogh's "Starry Night" because "it's visually active all over."

Dickson said he used black ink "because I had a big can of it."

The students' print was made up of 16 square blocks, all numbered to fit the pattern of the original painting. They picked their block numbers at random from a bucket.

"We were told to make it our own," said Caitlin McCauley, 18, a freshman from Lancaster, Pa. "We used little chisels. It took us six to seven hours to carve the blocks."

The student woodcutters worked from photographs of Van Gogh's painting, said Danielle Mirsch, 18, of Philadelphia.

Both said they liked how their woodcut came out.

"You can see all the separate blocks," McCauley said.

The experiment was done in a large vacant building at 252 E. King St. owned by Michael J. Albert, a 2005 Wilson graduate. The paving roller, which is stored in the building, was provided by the Merle E. Wingert Co.

Dickson said he used Japanese art paper because of the delicate way it takes in ink.

"It absorbs it nicely," he said.

The students' version "sort of matches and sort of doesn't," he said. "They learned a little about working with another artist's idea and a lot about working with others."

One of the two best prints will be displayed at the college and one probably will be auctioned off as a fundraiser, Dickson said.

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