Pete Mazzone doesn’t shy away from a challenge. In fact, the Chambersburg artist welcomes opportunities to step outside of the familiar and comfortable.
“I love getting out of my comfort zone,” said Mazzone, who is painting a mural on a 30-foot-long concrete wall behind Wilson College’s Lenfest Commons. “I think you have to do that.”
The element of discomfort is one of the reasons Mazzone agreed to paint the mural, which Wilson’s Sesquicentennial Committee commissioned as part of the college’s 150th anniversary festivities.
Although experienced at making large, oil-on-canvas paintings, Mazzone’s past artistic efforts didn’t include murals. And like many artists, he is most comfortable working alone. With the Wilson project, Mazzone had to be willing to work with volunteers and allow passersby to watch him as he paints.
He wasn’t sure how he would manage painting a large-scale mural with the help of volunteers, but Mazzone welcomed the chance to bring a new element into his creative process.
“Volunteers bring a unique energy to what you’re doing,” he said. “They just want to be part of an art project and that brings an enthusiasm level that can elevate a project.”
Nature Themed Mural
In late June, Mazzone began painting a nature-themed mural on a concrete wall that bounds one side of a patio outside of Sarah’s Coffeehouse. The area also overlooks Lenfest Commons and McElwain and Davison residence halls.
So far, Mazzone has worked with a small band of volunteers. They come from the Wilson community and the greater Chambersburg area. Despite his early concerns, the collaboration has turned out to be fun and gratifying.
“The volunteer experience has been wonderful so far,” Mazzone said. “The people that have come out have been wonderful spirits with great attitudes and happy to participate. I’ve been able to overcome my concerns about other people making my art.”
The mural is based on a large-format painting Mazzone created called Gwendolyn’s Woods. That painting was part of his 2016 show, Progressions, in the Wilson’s Sue Davison Cooley Gallery.
“I guess it struck a chord,” he said of the work inspired by the banks of the Conococheague Creek.
Sesquicentennial planners asked Mazzone to reimagine the piece for Wilson as a way to encourage public art on campus and mark the college’s birthday.
Official Unveiling This Fall
Playing off of Wilson’s blue and green color palette, Mazzone is painting the mural on both sides of the wall, which is nearly six feet tall. The official unveiling of the mural and an artist’s talk will happen sometime this fall.
Unlike an oil painting on canvas, an outdoor mural involves a different set of materials and application process. Mazzone researched the process extensively before beginning the Wilson project.
First he applied a masonry primer to seal the concrete, then added a base layer of exterior acrylic paint. Next, he sketched out his design and painted the walls with another layer of acrylic.
The final step will be a sealer topcoat to protect the mural from the elements, including the sun’s ultraviolet rays.
A Legacy in a Mural
With the Wilson mural, Mazzone has a legacy in mind. “This will probably outlive me. I want it to knock people’s socks off.”
Driven by color and form, Mazzone’s creative process is ─ as with most artists ─ personal and unique. He loves frequent visits to museums and galleries.
“Looking at art, to me, is almost equal to making art,” Mazzone said. “It informs what you do in the sense that it will allow you to fully find your voice.”
The other major influence on his art is nature, according to the artist, who draws much of his inspiration from the hues and patterns reflected in the natural world.
“The great thing about the woods is that there’s almost an infinite set of variations,” Mazzone said. “Each thing, each color is distinct.”
His paintings tend to be large — often six feet in height —because he likes the effect. “It involves the viewer more thoroughly, almost like they’re immersed in it,” he said.
Mazzone has a bachelor’s degree in studio art and art history from Principia College, a small liberal arts college in Elsah, Ill.
He has lived in the Chambersburg area since the 1990s.
His work is part of a number of private collections in North America.