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Students create literary mural for Brown Hall

Oct. 24, 2006

KALAMAZOO--Earlier this month, Western Michigan University students completed a huge 21-panel mural along the entire west side of the construction site at WMU's Brown Hall.

Eight feet tall and more than 250 feet long, the mural depicts 10 famous authors and one quotation by each of them. More than just an attractive facade for the construction site; the mural is a literary puzzle. The authors and quotes are not paired, side-by-side. They are randomly ordered, and the object is for passersby to correctly match each quote with an author. All of the quotes relate in some way, literally and metaphorically, to fences and barriers.

Karen Bondarchuk, assistant professor of art, guided 35 students in creating the painted panels in studios at East Hall. There is one image or quote per panel, and each panel is eight feet tall and 12 feet wide. Images of the literary figures and the quotes were projected on the panels, traced and painted by hand.

"We used Andy Warhol's silkscreen portraits as a model for manipulating the images," says Bondarchuk. "The unmodulated, monochromatic flat areas make sense for the scale of this project. It permitted the students to create large-scale, identifiable portraits without the stress of faithfully rendering realistic imagery."

The idea for the mural began with WMU Interim President Diether H. Haenicke, who petitioned the School of Art for suggestions and provided support for the literary mural project.

Literary figures represented are Maya Angelou, Willa Cather, John Cheever, Leonard Cohen, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Langston Hughes, H.L. Mencken, Mary Shelley and Oscar Wilde.

The mural will remain on display through fall 2007 and the completion of the Brown Hall project. Answers to the literary puzzle and more information can be found at www.wmich.edu/art.

Karen Bondarchuk can be reached at karen.bondarchuk@wmich.edu or (269) 387-2518.

Media contact: Thom Myers, (269) 387-8400, thom.myers@wmich.edu

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