‘Saint Joan’ Collage Earns Best Of Show
WILKES-BARRE — James Merolla gave an image of Joan of Arc his own flourish to earn Best of Show honors at the 2019 Fine Arts Fiesta.
He started with a print of a stained glass window that depicted the French heroine.
“I just collaged right over it. It’s all paper, glue, magic marker, pencil. A little bit of blood, sweat and tears in there too,” said Merolla, 39, of Wilkes-Barre.
After he had the print, Merolla went hunting for images in magazines with the right color, shape and look to transform it into a work of art that mimics stained glass. When he found the right piece for each pane, he rubbed it with an eraser to give it the look of glass with light shining through.
The finished piece is the result of hours of work and obsession over the little details. For the suit of armor, for example, he had to find just the right shade of yellow, then shade with a pencil to give it depth. He found, cut out, and altered dozens of pieces of paper before gluing them in place.
One pane shows a shield with a cross inside.
“That is an accident that worked out,” he said. “I had collaged over it but I didn’t like the way it looked, so I tried pulling it up. It got that look, and I thought, ‘I kind of like that,’ so I just left it that way.”
He kept adding his own style to the stained glass, giving Joan of Arc’s cape more folds, putting in his own border and adding other elements. For example, he didn’t like the appearance of the feet, so he covered them with fire rising from the ground. The flames’ vivid colors contrast the light shades of the window’s background.
Merolla also added hidden touches in the work that aren’t apparent at first but jump out upon a closer look. A cellphone pokes out from one edge. The sunlight that appears to shine off Joan of Arc’s stomach comes from an image of outer space.
The piece features two of Merolla’s interests — the inspiring figure of Joan of Arc and the art of stained glass windows.
“I don’t know what it is. I think it’s my Roman Catholic upbringing. I’m not a religious person but for some reason, I’m just drawn to Roman Catholic art, particularly stained glass art. I don’t know why, I just really love it and I like to try to recreate it as best I can,” he said.
This year’s Fine Arts Fiesta was his first time submitting work.
“I look around here at just amazing artwork,” he said. “I almost feel like I’m not worthy because there are so many amazing artists here.”
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