How would you like to see pop culture icons, the late Jim Croce standing in a doorway of his Chester County home, or Sly Stallone and his dog “Butkus” perched on the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum?
Projection artists Mike Lynch and Matt Nelson have recreated these two images and hundreds of others over the past four years.
Lynch and Nelson project paintings and photographs after dark onto the exact spot where the images were originally taken.
Jim Croce in the doorway of the former home in Lyndell. (INSERTED PHOTO)
You can also see Eddie Murphy from “Trading Places” in Rittenhouse Square or original paintings by Andrew Wyeth or Karl Kuerner projected.
“Maybe someone recognizes the Wyeth stuff?” Lynch asked.
Lynch is a sociology professor at Lincoln University and even recreated Albert Einstein’s historic visit to the Lincoln President’s House in 1946.
Rocky Balboa with dog Butkus, on steps of Philadelphia Art Museum c. 1976. (ENTERED PHOTO)
Lynch and Nelson invited me to one of their twilight projections at Andrew Wyeth Studio in Chadds Ford. The studio is the former home of Lower Birmingham School.
Two class pictures were projected onto the outside wall of the former school by Lynch and Nelson. With a bit of skill and tact, these guys lined up the pictures exactly where 1910 and 1926 students stood.
Everyone in the photos probably walked by which made the view even more magical. We had wonderfully brought children and teachers back to life!
Andrew Wyeth and Karl Kuerner at the Kuerner home in Chadds Ford c. 1981. (ENTERED PHOTO)
The scene was both eerie and wonderful. I felt like I was looking back on sunny spring school days, on students just beginning on a lifelong journey.
Lynch pointed out that the 1910 school was integrated with four blacks and the 1926 photo only showed whites? Coincidence, who knows?
And was that historian and violinist Chris Sanderson up there on the right? Could be. The timing seems right and there is a resemblance.
Albert Einstein guest lectures at Lincoln University c. 1946. (FILED PHOTO)
So why light up the night with paintings and old photos?
“You know the historical and artistic importance of this space,” Lynch told me. “A magical illusion is created, and just seeing a piece of history or American culture in its original space adds a cool historical element.”
At Kuerner Farm, where Andrew Wyeth painted some of his most enduring works, Lynch liked to climb Kuerner Hill, one of Wyeth’s greatest subjects.
Dasn’s Early Light (2001) by artist Karl J. Kuerner (INSERTED PHOTOGRAPH)
“For the first time, it felt like a historic moment in my life,” Lynch said. “Being in this room is like being in a church.”
Lynch met Karl J. Kuerner at plein air sessions at Keurner Farm and was allowed to project paintings such as Kuerner’s Dawn’s Early Light (2001) and Inside Looking Out (2018).’ A photo of Wyeth and Kuerner from the 1981 was also reconstructed in Kuerner’s house.
There is a large research element and a lot of historical investigation associated with the design. Lynch told me that historian and writer Catherine Quillman is a wonderful resource.
“She gives me so much incredibly useful information,” Lynch said. “She’s such a gem.”
Quillman: “When I first saw one of Michael’s video projections, it was a Wyeth painting. I don’t know the title by heart, but it reminded me that Wyeth was really a painter who worked on site and could convey a sense of place. In this way, I realized that not only is Michael’s work an interesting concept, the Wyeth projections are likely to inspire whole new generations of art lovers.”
The projections of photos and paintings are an extension of when Lynch and Nelson first stepped up giant projections onto the sides of buildings, including the F&M Building in West Chester. From there, with an eye on history, the men began to recreate in original places.
The perfect time to project is during the “blue hour,” Lynch said. Just after dark and before the darkness overcomes almost everything, it’s always magical, even without the projections.
There is still enough light to see the surroundings and see a clear projected image on the wall. I could clearly see the windows of the school in Chadd’s Ford with the projected image fading in. We could get closer and even block the projected image for a cool effect.
“It’s one thing to see a photo, but to see the photo in its actual location is a portal into the past,” Nelson said.
“We’ll be right there. That’s it,” Lynch said.
But turn off the projection and walk away, and the art is gone, save for our memories and a photo or two.
“The evanescence of the projection is fleeting and makes the piece much more delicate and precious,” Lynch said. “Seeing it in person with your own eyes is the ultimate – the ideal – nothing else can replace it.”
What will these guys come up with next? I can’t wait to see.
Lots of great things are posted on the project’s social media pages. For the full online gallery, visit @projected_in_place on Facebook and Instagram.
Bill Rettew is a weekly columnist and a native of Chester County. He loves it when artists document Chester County. The best way to reach him is at [email protected]