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Piece of folk art comes home

Lem Nolen’s ‘Christ Lives Again’ on display in the solarium of the Lincoln Cultural Center.

Lem Nolen’s ‘Christ Lives Again’ on display in the solarium of the Lincoln Cultural Center.

‘Christ Lives Again’ now on display in Lincoln Cultural Center

ANNIE BLACKBURN
Staff Writer

“Christ Lives Again” was once an obscure piece of folk art.
A commission from the Samaracand Manor in Eagle Springs for a local artist in 1957, the large painting that was once a focal point in the chapel of the now closed reform school has finally come home to Lincoln County.
Crouse artist Lemuel Nolen finished the piece in the late summer with help of his community. Drawing inspiration from his family Bible, farm animals and scenery like the Howards Creek Mill and Historic Woodside Plantation, Nolen set out to paint the life of Jesus on three 4-foot by 12-foot and one 2-foot by 12-foot Masonite panels.
From the time of its dedication in 1958, “Christ Lives Again” hung on the wall behind the choir and the pulpit in the chapel of Samarcand Manor, standing as a visual representation of hope that the school itself strived to give the youth that it served. It remained in the chapel for 20 years before it was moved to the gymnasium where is stayed until June 18.
When funding for the institution was cut in 2011, the Historical Association reached out to Rep. Jason Saine and Dr. Kevin Cherry, deputy secretary, North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, expressing interest in the piece. After three years of hard work by Saine, Cherry and Association staff, the painting was eventually donated to Lincoln County.
“It’s just a great folk art painting with a great back story,” said Jason Harpe, executive director of the Lincoln County Historical Association. “And it’s a local artist.”
It took a large covered trailer and several Association staff members and volunteers to transport the painting to its new home in the county, but with a painting that measures in at an enormous 14 feet by 12 feet, there had to be a prominent place to display it.
“The painting is so large that the only place to put it is in the solarium,” Harpe said. “We went to see the painting before we made plans to transport it back here.”
Even with the large space in the solarium of the Lincoln Cultural Center, the top panel of the painting is not mounted, as it is only sky. According to Harpe, the painting requires conservation work, but with depictions of the journey of Joseph and Mary, Christ’s delivery of the Sermon on the Mount and the arrival of the Wise Men, the Association knew that this piece of Lincoln County history was too important to leave in storage.
“We didn’t want to wait around for the conservation,” Harpe said. “We wanted to get it on the wall and let everyone see it and enjoy it.”
“Christ Lives Again” is now in its permanent home, on public display in the Solarium of the Lincoln Cultural Center. A dedication will be held Aug. 22.

Image courtesy of Jaclyn Anthony / Lincoln Times-News

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