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In the shadow of the White House
“It is definitely message art, more so than Bicentennial art of any kind,” said George R. (Randy) Hofman, 24, as he put the finishing touches on a huge chalk drawing of the Crucifixion on the sidewalk across the street from the White House.
Hofman said he spends summers in Ocean City, N.J., doing chalk drawings, acrylic paintings and sand sculptures, mostly on religious themes. He has sculpted and painted the Last Supper, Moses parting the Red Sea, and Moses with the Ten Commandments.
He has also reproduced famous art, such as “The Starry Night” by van Gogh, but he prefers religious motifs, because “more people can identify with (them) right off.”
“They love the spiritual enlightenment of it,” Hofman said. “They get inspired.”
Hofman lives with his parents at New Hampshire Ave. near Brookeville in Montgomery County. He said he converted the stable there into a studio, and he has painted a huge acrylic mural on the walls and the ceiling depicting the second coming of Christ.
The young artist works quickly; it took a little over an hour yesterday to complete most of the picture’s detail. About eight feet square, its main elements were Christ on the Cross, a centurion and a kneeling follower.
“You have to juxtapose the warms and the cools, the darks against the lights for the contrast,” Hofman said. He said he begins by drawing an outline with ordinary blackboard chalk and filling it in with colored chalk.
Hofman said he was concerned that the authorities might object to someone “painting” the sidewalk in front of the White House and the (guard) said if you go across the street maybe it’d be OK,” he said.
So Hofman picked up his chalk and found a concrete “canvas” in front of Lafayette Park. Several pedestrians stopped to admire his work, “although one person didn’t like it, because he didn’t think Christ should be on the ground like that.”
Others were enthusiastic. Brother Luke, of the international Order of St. Luke the Physician, said it was “super.”
“If we could get teenagers turned on to ‘defacing’ sidewalks with chalk, maybe they wouldn’t deface walls with spray paint,” he said. “This is a beautiful expression that’s not detrimental to anybody.”
Hofman said he wants to see sidewalk art in his home town. “There’s hardly any of it here,” he said, though it’s common in Europe and in Boston and San Francisco.
Published in the Washington Post USA (11th Feb. 1976)
Researched by Philip Battle
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