- Associated Press - Monday, June 30, 2014

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - The artist who began painting frescoes at two small Episcopal churches in Ashe County 40 years ago and continued the art form in other parts of North Carolina says he’s flattered but puzzled by the tribute planned for him.

The attention “is kind of foreign to me,” Ben Long said in a phone interview Monday. “I’m basically just an artist who paints pictures.”

The Ashe County Frescoes Foundation planned to hold the tribute to Statesville native Ben Long on Monday in Jefferson.

In 1974, Long painted frescoes at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in West Jefferson and Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Glendale Springs, including life-size depictions of The Last Supper and the crucifixion of Christ.

North Carolina also has a Ben Long Frescoes Trail in counties in seven counties: Ashe, they are Avery, Buncombe, Burke, Iredell, Mecklenburg and Wilkes counties. The foundation was organized in 2009 to protect and preserve Long’s frescoes.

Long, who grew up in Statesville and Blowing Rock, studied fresco painting in Italy before bringing the art to churches in his home state. His largest and first secular fresco was a three-panel painting in the Bank of America Corporate Center in Charlotte representing themes of making/building, chaos/creativity and planning/knowledge.

A fresco artist mixes ground earth pigments with water, then applies the mixture to a damp lime plaster surface or wall. The pigments are absorbed as the plaster dries, so the paint becomes a part of the wall. Only small areas can be completed in day because what’s started in the morning must be finished by that night.

Long, 69, said he’s also working on a fresco at Wingate University that should be finished by late November. It will incorporate the themes of fire, wind, water and earth, he said. He’s also in the discussion stage with a Chapel Hill group about painting a fresco there.

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Online:

http://www.ashefrescoes.org/

http://www.benlongfrescotrail.org/

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Follow Martha Waggoner at http://twitter.com/mjwaggonernc

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