Richard Maschal first saw the St. Peter’s fresco on assignment for his newspaper, the Charlotte Observer. Art and architecture critic at the time, he was so impressed that he stayed to witness much of the progress of the work, leading to the book <i>Wet-Wall Tattoos: Ben Long and the Art of Fresco</i>. The recipient of an NEA fellowship in the humanities, Maschal has also published articles in the <i>New York Times</i>, <i>Architectural Record</i>, and <i>Southern Accents</i>. He lives in Charlotte.
Wet-Wall Tattoos: Ben Long and the Art of Frescoby Richard Maschal
He was not intimidated. With frescoes in Italy and the North Carolina mountains to his
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In September 1987, Ben Long got his first look at the altar wall of St. Peter's Catholic Church in Charlotte, North Carolina. Over 30 feet high at its peak, encompassing 1,540 square feet, it was the size of a small house. Long's job was to cover it with a fresco painting.
He was not intimidated. With frescoes in Italy and the North Carolina mountains to his credit, Long had a reputation on two continents. A modern man practicing an ancient and demanding technique, he liked the challenge of creating an artifact for the ages, an artwork designed to last as long as the building containing it.
The project consumed the next two years of his life. Long and the priest at St. Peter's, Father John Haughey, sometimes disagreed bitterly over the content of the fresco, recalling the battle of wills between the more famous prototypes, Michelangelo and Pope Julius II.
This is the story of the St. Peter's fresco from its birth, when the struggling church was given a second life, to its aftermath, when Long received a commission for a major fresco in the Bank of America building in Charlotte. It tells of the small crew of artists who paid their own expenses to learn fresco from Long. It tells of the wall itself, with its great capacity for absorbing plaster and pigment, love and anger, wine and sweat, exhilaration and despair.
But mostly, it tells of Ben Long, a talented, complex man who learned his craft from teachers as different as his evangelist grandfather and an Italian master, in places as diverse as Vietnam and Florence—a man bucking the tide of contemporary art in his effort to create something of lasting beauty.
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- Blair, John F. Publisher
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