Must…write..about…Ben Long…while…on…blogcation

Ben Long’s Frescoes

As you can tell from the title, I saw multiple Ben Long frescoes at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church and Holy Trinity Church of the Fresco.  Before this, I saw his other commissions in my home city of Charlotte, North Carolina.  When I pursued my art history degree during my community college years, he had already made the art history survey books.

If you have seen his work in person, you can see Long prefers to work on a grand scale.  I saw his sketches at a friend’s gallery, and even those can almost cover a whole wall.  The frescoes he created for St Mary’s and the Holy Trinity practically swallow up the two tiny churches.  The main rooms of the buildings have such diminutive size, they come off as these novelty art galleries made specifically for Ben Long’s epic masterpieces and other artwork found on display and not working houses of worship.  They have functional pews and alters, but those features resembled a simulation in relationship to the art on display.  When displaying these works of art, the little chapels do a great job with soft lighting.  Nothing harsh or bright, it creates this warm, dark, and intimate atmosphere for people to contemplate the art around them.

In St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, Long created quite possibly the biggest triptych for a church I have ever seen.  Instead of small reliquaries and sculpture, he just breaks down the chancel (hope I have the right term) section into three paintings.  The main one shows the Crucifixion of Jesus and the releasing of His spirit.  The two side frescoes had portraits of John the Baptist and a pregnant Mary.  Out of all the Long frescoes I have seen so far, I love the Crucifixion the best.  So beautiful and his use of color left me moved.  Furthermore, not everyday you saw Mary in the pregnancy stage.  Above her, Long painted an eclipse, possibly a parallel to Her round belly.

The Holy Trinity Church of the Fresco depicts The Last Supper.  A very clean scene with no decorations except for pottery, animals, and food.  As any typical Catholic (Episcopalian, but still), they had pencil drawings of Christ leading to His Crucifixion.  They had a lower floor with a Columbarium and a fresco done by a Ben Long student that showed a scene of Christ leaving his mother to start teaching.  The room had a wooden sculpture of Christ dealing with temptation in the wilderness.

The churches had other paintings and sculpture by other artists.  At the back of the nave of St. Mary’s, they had a sculpture of Mary holding the Infant Christ.  Another painting that stood out to me, came from Bo Bartlett’s The Laughing Christ at Holy Trinity.  In my years of reading art history books, I have never seen the Messiah’s teeth.  Bartlett also depicted him nude from the waist up, which made me wonder why he depicted him in that state.  They had an artist statement next to the painting, but I only remember Bartlett proclaiming that he wanted to depict Jesus in a welcoming light.  Both churches had stained glass windows that depicted scenes of Catholic symbols, Christ accepting people from different cultural backgrounds, Adam and Eve, and the first Pope.

If you want to see good contemporary Christian art, I recommend visiting these two places.

Update 2-17-2018: Changed and added new links.

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