SMITHFIELD — For the last few years, Doyle Geddes has wanted to create the world’s largest reproduction of a master painting. Using two tons of breakfast cereal, that dream became reality Saturday with a re-creation of Vincent Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” that covered an area 72 feet by 90 feet.
Geddes, who teaches humanities at Sky View High School, led more than 150 of his students through the process of creating a replica of “Starry Night” 30 times the size of Van Gogh’s original painting.
“To the best of our knowledge it is the largest re-creation of a Van Gogh work of art in any medium,” he said. The re-creation – made with blue, purple, red, green, yellow and brown cereals – was displayed in a gym at Sky View.
As he looked at the completed project Saturday, Geddes said, “I think it’s better than we even expected or dreamed that it could be.” He thinks Van Gogh would be happy with the re-creation, too.
“I think he’s smiling on us today,” Geddes said.
Preparations in Sky View’s gym began about a week ago, Geddes said. They first spread plastic sheeting on the gym floor and then made a grid that created 4-foot boxes across the area. Using that grid, he said, they drew the contours of “Starry Night.”
“It’s as close to the original as it can possibly be,” Geddes said.
Friday night, students caulked one-inch strips of card stock to the plastic sheeting along the drawing of the painting. Areas were labeled by color and Saturday morning, they filled in the spaces with the appropriate color of cereal. Cereal was spread one inch thick.
Saturday morning, Geddes, who wore a Van Gogh tie for luck, said he was a little worried about running out of cereal, but they ended up having enough.
“Our math was good. Our drawing was good and it resulted in a great final product,” Geddes said.
He estimated it would take almost five hours to fill the space with cereal. When they got working Saturday, however, it went faster than he anticipated. It took three and a half hours to fill the area with cereal.
But students didn’t just dump cereal in the bordered contours. Andy Chaparro, student project manager of the “Starry Night” recreation, said that to add texture and form to the piece, some cereal was crunched.
Geddes said the Malt-O-Meal factory in Tremonton donated Tootie Fruities, Cocoa Dyno-Bites and Frosted Mini Spooners, Square One and Lowe’s also donated supplies, he said. Geddes said people were supportive of the idea from the start, and that students have been excited, too.
Chaparro said when he first heard Geddes talk about the project, he felt some disbelief.
“This is incredible,” Chaparro said. “When he announced it to us I almost thought it was just a joke ... it’s a dream but I didn’t think it would ever come to pass.”
Geddes said they chose to recreate “Starry Night” because of its beauty and recognition. To accompany the display of “Starry Night,” there were also 28 smaller Van Gogh recreations that students made with cereal.
There was a public viewing 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday. Afterward, the cereal was put back into totes and given to a pig farmer that will use it to feed pigs.
“So ‘Starry Night’ is going to the pigs, and I think Van Gogh would be happy with that,” Geddes said. “I think he’d be quite happy ... I think he’d be happy that we’re doing it and I think he would love the madness of his work of art going to the pigs.”
Geddes said he began assigning projects like “Starry Night,” but on a smaller scale, years ago “to break up the monotony of the classroom routine” and to offer students “a different experience with art.”
He said he hopes that after students work on the “Starry Night” project, they have an appreciation for and a greater connection to art.
“When Van Gogh created this, you know, 100-plus years ago, it said something about him as a person, about the time that he lived, the culture that influenced him, and it’s also part of who we are,” he said.
Geddes dream is the result of what he describes as “an overactive imagination.” He said the idea may have been ambitious but, he hopes students learn to dream big.
“Let your imagination go,” he said.