MIDDLEBURY, Vt. — Two Middlebury alumni who graduated nearly a half century apart have collaborated to restore Sabra Field’s grand mural “Cosmic Geometry” painted on the east facade of Wright Theatre.
Local artist Joseph Schine ’03 devoted six weeks this spring to mixing oil paints, matching colors, and applying them to the rear outside wall of the theatre, sometimes as high as 40 feet off the ground. The paint, which has to cure for a few more weeks, will soon receive a protective clear coat to protect it from ultraviolet rays.
Schine, who majored in studio art at Middlebury, had access to Field’s 16 original prints that depict cellular, plant, animal, and architectural patterns derived from subjects ranging from the Duomo in Florence or the Pantheon in Rome to scales on a fish or the veins in a leaf.
“I really had to learn how Sabra (Class of 1957) used patterns to create her forms,” Schine said. “And as I got into the project, I loved it! The forms she created are really elegant and there’s a rhythm to it all that’s quite poetic.”
Schine approached the job thinking it would be an opportunity to hone his mural-painting skills. “But I found that as I worked with Sabra’s prints and compared them to the existing mural [originally painted in 2010], I had this opportunity to make it better–to give it a more authentic rendering of what the artist intended.”
The carp in the lower right-hand corner of the mural is a case in point. Field met with Schine during the restoration and expressed concern that the fish scales in the original mural were never quite right. “I told her I would take care of it, and I did,” he said. “We also talked about the colors. Even though I matched the colors to the prints under a full spectrum light, when they are spread out over such a large area they appear to be more vivid in the mural than their counterparts on paper.”
The 35-foot by 35-foot mural was handpainted from Field’s designs by Colossal Media, a New York City-based firm specializing in handpainted outdoor advertising. The idea of filling the once-blank wall with a colorful mural was the brainchild of Kate Lupo ’10, an art history major who always thought of the 3,000 square-foot wall on the back of Wright Theater as a giant canvas waiting to be transformed. Her wish was granted when the College’s Committee on Art in Public Places decided to fund the project.
In restoring the mural seven years later, Joseph Schine used the same oil-based enamel paint brands that Colossal employed. “Using Sabra’s original proofs, I mixed the colors myself in small batches to get them just right. Occasionally I would mix them in my studio, but I mostly mixed them on the ground in back of Wright Theatre or up in the boom lift.”