Tag Archives: Philadelphia PA

Family Home

About a year ago, a friend of mine asked me if I would do a painting of his family home. Sure, I said.

Well, time moved on, we kept talking about it here and there, but finally this summer the stars aligned and the project was done. Here is the story, and it is special to me.

My friend, John, lives in the home where he grew up. It was built more than 100 years ago by his grandparents, lived in by his parents, and now by him. It’s an end-of-row rowhome located in what was a small town about 35 miles from Center City Philadelphia.

The area is now suburbanizing and there have been a lot of changes, but the house is still as it has always been, rising up from the street in a dignified way.

As well as a doing a portrait of the house, John asked me to include his dogs: Ava, Maggie, Nikki, and Winnie. Other than that, well, it was up to me.

Normally I won’t do commissions. I dislike feeling the future owner’s hopes hovering over my shoulder as I work. I extra dislike the idea that I could disappoint the recipient. In this case, I know that John likes my work; he has been a big supporter of me, always.

But I also knew that this house means more than just shelter to him. It is the embodiment of a lifetime of memories for him and the setting for all his family’s history for a century. I felt a lot of responsibility.

But, I figured, I’ll get to work, and if it doesn’t please him, well, I’ll just…just…try again!

I want to show the process of this project, and I will break it down into its parts. Because I decided there would be paintings rather than painting.

Here are my ideas. I would do a small portrait of each dog; I’d do the house; and I’d do a picture of the front door and steps. In this way I could represent all the parts that seemed important. The house, of course. The dogs deserved their own spaces; I felt they would be insignificant inside the larger painting and I didn’t like that idea, since they are so important to John. And I just liked the front steps; that’s the way everyone who’s ever been there goes in and out, all those years!

My husband and I drove out and took pictures of the house in June. John sent me pictures of Ava, Nikki, and Maggie; I took a picture of John and Winnie in July.

Now you know it all. Here are the results.


Let’s start with the dogs.

Ava:

Maggie:

Nikki:

And John and Winnie. I met Winnie myself; John brought her to the Tinicum Festival of the Arts and I took her picture.

Here is the close up of the steps and front door.

And now. The house!

Here are the finished pieces all together…

Two Favorites

I visited the city on Wednesday, August 9, the city being my city, Philadelphia. My husband had a meeting at his downtown office and I decided to take the ride in and go look around.

It was a beautiful day. I rarely go into Philadelphia anymore, but for many years I was here every day – I worked in several different locations (for the same employer) in Center City and in the historic district. I also drove all over the place for my job, so I know a lot about the entire city; but it’s the hub of things I want to talk about today.

On this walk, I visited two of my favorite art pieces, both public art. I’ll show you a little bit and then, if you are interested, you can find more info on the internet or…you can visit Philadelphia!

All right. We’ll start with some relief sculptures on this building.

It’s the US Courthouse (now Robert C Nix Federal Building) and the William Penn Annex of the post office. The building is quite large – it extends a half block on Market Street and goes all the way through the block to Chestnut Street.

The reliefs I am interested in are along the 9th street facade. They were the work of Edmond Amateis and commissioned by the government through the WPA to ornament this 1930’s building.

They depict mail delivery and show it taking place in far-flung locations. I have always loved these sculptures for their style and beauty, and for the idea that mail delivery unites the world, with people working hard to get a letter where it needs to go.

Here they are: they are arranged in two pairs. You will notice a difference in the look of the reliefs – two were in the sun and two in shadow.

First, the cowboy and the city postman:

Next, mail delivery in the tropics and in the far north:

Every time I am in the neighborhood I stop to take a look. For more information look here.


 

Now, my other favorite. It’s Dream Garden, a huge mosaic located in the lobby of the Curtis Center at 6th and Walnut Streets, right next to the Independence Hall complex. I worked in a building around the corner for some time and when I needed a respite, I’d come over and visit the mural.

It was designed by Maxfield Parrish and created by the Tiffany studios. Many many small pieces of glass, iridescent, opaque, all glowing. It was installed in 1916 in this building, at the time the home of Curtis Publishing (Ladies Home Journal, Saturday Evening Post). The building itself is fascinating and beautiful, but I am showing you just the mosaic today.

As a note – there are a lot of pictures on the internet, better than mine – here is its official entry by its owner, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.

The mosaic was almost lost to the city about 20 years ago, when its owner died and the heir proposed selling it to a Las Vegas casino. In a complicated transaction with public donations and the cooperation of other beneficiaries under the will, the mosaic became the property of PAFA and is now protected as a historic object.

I noticed some “band-aids” on the mosaic that were not there when I last saw it.

A bit of research told me that construction elsewhere in the building had shaken the structure a year ago and damaged the mosaic. I can’t find details on what the restoration plan is, except that it is being studied for repair. I feel better knowing it is in the care of a museum, at least. Anyway, my pleasure was not diminished by the “band-aids”.

All right, now you’ve seen them. My favorites.

People Walking

These paintings from June, 2017, are done in acrylics, 10″ x 8″.

“Pedestrian” was started during the plein air event I did in Chestnut Hill in June. I couldn’t finish it there so I took it home and ended up with a scene somewhat like the original. I added a person walking along the sidewalk – the painting looked a little lonely without some sign of life.

The second painting came from my head, no reference to the real world. I added a person to it, too, for the same reason as “Pedestrian”.

Plein Air Paintings

I’m not sure if I ever posted these paintings done at the plein air event I attended in early June, 2017. If I did do it, well, here they are again.

 

Moody

A couple of photos from Logue Library at Chestnut Hill College. One is of a light fixture on the ceiling; all I did was point the camera at it and say “Hold still…”

The other one is a blur photo, where I have taken the camera and swooped it across the scene.

These were done in March and April, 2017.

I Am an Onlooker

Yesterday I made a trip over to Chestnut Hill College for a reason other than writing poetry – I wanted to attend the Senior Seminar presentations in art.

If you follow my poetry blog, you know that I go to the library here every week to write. A few weeks ago I noticed posters for these presentations taped on the library doors. I decided I’d check it out. I was interested to see what the students would have to say and I was curious about the art studio facilities, too.

So I arrived at the campus and climbed the hill to St. Joseph’s Hall.

St. Joseph’s Hall, Chestnut Hill College, April, 2017.

This building is formed in a T shape – the front façade being the top of the T with the Rotunda in the middle. The main part of the building extends out the back. The art studio is located on the top floor in the left side of the T top, as you look at the building. What a fantastic location! Windows on three sides of the room and huge skylights.

The building was constructed in 1903 and I believe this room was always meant to house an art studio. And – we are really high up in the air. We can look down on the top of the flagpole from the window.

One of the professors told me that when the students want to do landscape paintings, but the weather is bad, they have a panoramic view from inside the room to use instead. And it is true.

We settled in to listen to the presentations. The art department is small at this school – there were only three seniors. It was obvious from their work that they were given a great deal of attention and support and they had thrived in it. The senior project involved not only creating artworks, but doing so as to carry out a theme, and using more than one medium; the project also included a written paper. Each student’s work was well-thought out and went into some depth. I went away having learned something from each one.

After the presentations we went out into the art gallery to view the works themselves. This space is located on the mezzanine of the fifth floor outside the studio.

As you can see, we are really high up in the building! I have a fear of heights and I stayed away from the (substantial) railing, but there was plenty of room and I did not feel afraid. I had a chance to talk to each student, ask questions, and see the work up close. I really enjoyed this part of the experience because I enjoy comparing what I see in the work with what the artist intended.

Finishing up, I took a few pictures looking over the railing. This took some courage for me!

I had not really understood the scope of the day’s events. It turned out that all seniors were presenting their major projects – either making an oral or a poster presentation. (The tables below were being prepared for some of the posters/students). I made my way downstairs (slowly, taking some time to wander around the building – it was a good time to do it, as the place was full of visitors and so I was not the only one craning my neck at the views…).

By that time the rest of the event was in full swing. There were several rooms of posters and students standing in front of them, ready to answer questions.

I also learned that students in other academic disciplines were giving oral presentations.

Next year I’ll be better prepared and I’ll stop in on some of these as well. As it was, I walked around the room and talked to several students – topics including Hemingway, abnormal psychology, art therapy…any interest you might have had, I believe you could have found a student ready to talk about it.

I came away very impressed with the students and with the college for providing them with the chance to shine like this. I had a great time and I’ll be looking for another trip back here this time next year. Look where art takes you!

Speed Read

Here are a couple of photos I snapped at the Logue Library at Chestnut Hill College, a few weeks ago, I think.

All I did was move the camera while taking the picture. I liked the look.