The News & Record
South Boston News & Record
and Mecklenburg Sun
Home   •   News   •   Sports   •   Classifieds   •   Community   •   Health   •   Entertainment   •   Obituaries   •   Opinions   •   Weather
Advertising | Contact | Register
Advanced Search
News

Flotsam Flotilla Saturday on Banister

Full house backs home business

Crowd urges Halifax council to allow apparel sales at Mountain Road home

Tourism spending takes big leap locally

Growth rate of 6.9 percent is among highest in Virginia

Sports

Comets take 34-14 win over Rockets

Improve to 2-0, face Park View at home Friday

Community


Opinion


A&E

News

ART EVERYWHERE, EVEN ELMO

South Boston News
This 1994 mural of the Last Supper hangs on an old building in an out-of-the-way place: Elmo. Since this photograph was taken, the painting has been obscured by tree growth. (Photo courtesy Sonja Ingram.)
SoVaNow.com / August 19, 2019
Art is where you find it.

Look carefully in Elmo — the crossroads in the rural far west of Halifax County — to see a partially hidden rendition of Leonardo da Vinci’s famous “The Last Supper.” It’s a curiosity that a group called Preservation Virginia might want to preserve.

The mural, concealed at first glance by overgrown flora, is on the side of the old Elmo School, a former grammar school. On three large boards, it depicts Christ and his disciples at the Last Supper. The subjects maintain the same poses as in Leonardo’s version, but the art style is entirely different. It can be described as primitive art, with broad brushstrokes, a limited color scheme, and some lack of detail. But where some details are lacking, other details emerge, such as a patterned carpet, a crenelated castle wall at the top, and noticeably outlined fingers on the disciples’ hands.

The distinctive, out-of-the-way mural was painted in 1994 by Virginia artist Vincent Witcher, who now works at Glenwood Memorial Baptist Church in Danville.

“I had a picture to go by, and I drew it however it came out,” Witcher said of his art style and its resemblance to other Last Supper paintings.

While the mural is 25 years old and exposed to all wind and weather, the paint, likely acrylic, has proven rather resilient, with the greens, blues, browns, grays, and yellows still strong. Just as the art style is limited, the color scheme is limited as well.

“I used the colors I enjoy using,” Witcher said.

Sonja Ingram, a preservation field services manager for Preservation Virginia, remarked on the physical appearance of the figures in the painting: “It looked to me like the people were more ethnic.” She believes that the depiction of their hair, skin, and features are more realistic, as they have dark brown hair, similar to how many Biblical figures would have looked. Preservation Virginia is a statewide organization whose mission is to encourage preservation; it owns Historic Jamestowne and, locally, is known for making grants to save old tobacco barns.

But Ingram became interested in the mural for its style and unique location. “You don’t see a lot of folk art in rural areas, especially on a public place like that.”

The mural has its home at the Elmo School, across the road from the Elmo Grocery, but it originally was located at the Wellspring Academy, a faith-based private school for at-risk boys that operated from the mid-1980s until 2003. The man who ran the academy commissioned Witcher to paint it for the students, Witcher recalled.

Ingram has no definite plans for the restoration process for the mural, but she believes it could benefit from being cleaned, and she wants a screen in front of it to protect it from damaging ultraviolet light. Whether the mural is preserved or not is up to the owner of the building, but if the project can be green-lighted, Preservation Virginia would leave the mural in its current location and turn it into a landmark accessible to visitors.

Venetia Stebbins, who, with her sister-in-law owns the Elmo building, thinks her husband, who worked at Wellspring for a time, salvaged the mural when the school closed.

Mary Stebbins remembers blackboards inside the “beautiful building,” but doesn’t think the structure was used for much after it closed as a school in the early twentieth century.

While Ingram is interested in this mural, she wants to preserve other folk art in Southern Virginia along with it. “There are some local grant opportunities. I think it should be protected.”



Tell-a-Friend | Submit a Comment

42

Comments

Hi- This is Vincent Witcher. I'm the artist mentioned in this article. I still do art for various clients. If anyone is interested in a mural or a painting feel free to contact me. I also do computer art and animation and compose music of various genre. For more information about my artwork and music please go to http://www.vincentwitcher.net and here is the link to my You tube page: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCiR8aDLkLJGynSsUKs51UgA Thanks!


Advertising Flyer

Find out how you can reach more customers by advertising with The News & Record and The Mecklenburg Sun -- in print and online.