Several current and former West Virginia University students probably feel their Spidey Sense tingling while watchingSpider-Man 2.The thought that theres something familiar about one particular scene probably swings through their minds.
As Peter Parker can attest, trust those senses. There is something familiar about the films bank robbery scene for anyone who has sat in G-21 of White Hall on WVU s downtown campus.
A replica of the Robert Lepper mural covering the front wall of the WVU auditorium adorns a wall of a bank in the latestSpider-Maninstallment. The work, considered one of the most important examples of machine age art, depicts industries prevalent in West Virginia during the early 1940s.
It is flattering to know that a leading Hollywood design studio thought so highly of the painting that they were willing to go to considerable trouble and expense to incorporate it in the film,said John Cuthbert, curator of the West Virginia and Regional History Collection at WVU .It is simply the best example they could find of the machine age movement in American art.
In 1940, WVU commissioned Lepper to do the painting in what was then the new Mineral Industries Building. It wasdiscoveredlast year by an art consultant working on the movie.
Jennifer Long, with Film Art LA, had the task of finding a mural that could be copied and placed on the wall of a bank. The set decorator simply told her they wanted something with a WPA feel. WPA , which stood for Works Progress Administration, was a federal works program that President Franklin Roosevelt implemented to get Depression-era Americans back to work.
Longs search led her to many artists and finally to the bookThe Machine Age in America, 1918-1941,where she found a picture of Leppers mural at WVU .
It had all the workings of a WPA mural,she said.The lines and the designs were perfect. It was definitely right as part of the building. For me, more than anything was the kind of feeling of commerce and industry moving forward.
When she showed the picture to set decorator Jay Hart, he knew he had found the mural for the wall. Hart said the muted colors appealed to him the most because they complement the marble columns and dark wood in the bank. And, for the Pittsburgh native, it also helped that Lepper had taught art at Carnegie Mellon University.
After director Sam Raimi gave his approval, Long contacted Cuthbert to obtain the rights to use the image inSpider-Man 2.Hart then sent a photographer to campus to take shots of the mural so it could be reproduced.
Back at Sony Studios, a team of five painters then copied the painting onto eight separate pieces of canvas so that it could fit into the available space at the bank. Crews then crafted faux bronze frames to attach to the finished paintings before mounting them in the bank.
The end result is an attractive backdrop that looks like its original, Hart said.
The mural can be seen during a scene in which Peter Parker and Aunt May go to the bank. It also serves as the background for a fight between Spider-Man and Dr. Octopus.
Cuthbert doubts the average viewer will notice the Universitys contribution toSpider-Man 2.However, he is hopeful its placement can increase awareness of this great mural on campus and serve as a reminder of the many wonderful treasures stemming from the Universitys intriguing history.
It is also a fun new addition to WVU trivia,Cuthbert said.