How would you like to see pop culture icons, the late Jim Cross standing at the entrance to his Chester County home, or Sly Stallone and his dog “Botkos” sitting at the Philadelphia Museum of Art?
The show’s artists, Mike Lynch and Matt Nelson, have recreated these two images, and hundreds of others, over the past four years.
Lynch and Nelson display paintings and photographs after dark on the exact places where the photographs originally occurred.
You can also see Eddie Murphy from “Trading Places” on Rittenhouse Square, or view original Andrew Wyeth or Karl Kuerner paintings.
“Perhaps someone will learn about Wyeth’s things?” Lynch asked.
Lynch is Professor of Sociology at the University of Lincoln, and he recreated Albert Einstein’s historic visit to President Lincoln’s home in 1946.
Lynch and Nelson invited me to a dusk show at Andrew Wyeth’s studio in Shades Ford. The studio is the former home of Birmingham Lower School.
Two of the class photos were displayed on the exterior wall of the former school by Lynch and Nelson. With a little ingenuity and maneuverability, these men lined up the pictures at the exact spot where students stood in 1910 and 1926.
Everyone in the photos may have passed, which made the view even more magical. We have wonderfully brought the kids and teachers back to life!
The scene was strange and wonderful. I felt like I was looking back on the sunny spring school days of students who had just begun the journey of a lifetime.
Lynch pointed out that the 1910 school was integrated by four blacks, and there were only whites in the 1926 picture? Coincidence, who knows?
And was that historian and violinist Chris Sanderson over there on the top right? could be. The timing seems right and there is a similarity.
So why do you light up the night with old paintings and photos?
“You know the historical and artistic significance of that space,” Lynch told me. “A magical illusion is created and just seeing a piece of American history or culture in its original space adds a great historical element.”
On the Koerner farm, where Andrew Wyeth painted some of his most enduring works, Lynch enjoyed climbing Koerner Hill, one of Wyeth’s greatest themes.
“For the first time, it felt like a historic moment in my life,” Lynch said. “Being in that space, it’s like being in a church.”
Lynch met Karl J. Kuerner during air sessions at Keurner’s ranch and was allowed to shoot from panels such as Kuerner’s “Dawn’s Early Light” (2001) and “Inside Looking Out” (2018).” An image of Wyeth and Kuerner has also been recreated from 1981 Inside the Kuerner House.
There is a significant research component and a great deal of historical investigation involved in the projection. Lynch tells me that historian and writer Kathryn Coleman is a great resource.
“It gave me a lot of incredibly useful information,” Lynch said. “It’s a gem.”
Coleman: “When I first saw one of Michael’s video presentations it was Wyeth’s painting. I don’t know the title indirectly, but it reminded me that Wyeth was actually an illustrator who worked on site, and he can convey a sense of place. In this way, I realized Michael’s work isn’t just an interesting concept. Wyeth’s shows will likely inspire whole new generations of art lovers.”
The photo and painting projections are an extension of what Lynch and Nelson first did to enhance the massive projections on the sides of buildings, including the F&M building in West Chester. From there, with a nod to history, the men began rebuilding at the original sites.
The ideal time for a project, Lynch said, is during “blue hour.” After dusk, before darkness overcomes almost everything, it is always charming, even without expectations.
There is still enough light to see the surrounding area and to see a clear picture projected on the wall. I was clearly able to see the school windows in Shades Ford, with the image shown fading out. We were able to get close and even block the projected image to get a cool effect.
“Seeing a photograph is one thing, but seeing an image in its actual place is a gateway to the past,” said Nelson.
“We’re there,” Lynch said.
But turn off the show and walk away and the art will go, keep our memories and a picture or two.
“The ephemeral nature of the drop is fleeting and makes the piece all the more delicate and precious,” Lynch said. “To see it in person with your own eyes is the end – the ideal – nothing else can replace it.”
What will these guys come next? I can’t wait to see.
There are a lot of cool stuff posted on the project’s social media pages. For the full online gallery, go to Facebook and Instagram at @projected_in_place.
Bill Riteau is a weekly columnist and a resident of Chester County. He loves when artists document Chester County. The best way to reach him is to email [email protected]