A Walk in FDR Park

The Fairmount Park Conservancy is a non-profit corporation that supports efforts to improve the public parks of Philadelphia. And there are lots of parks in Philadelphia. Click here for an interactive map. They sponsored a tour of FDR Park that I took a few weeks ago. I learned a lot about the park, its history and the ecology of the area.

FDR Park is located at the southernmost tip of Philadelphia in an area once known as “The Neck.” It was originally marshland and wetlands, which is probably why it didn’t get build up too much, although people did live and farm there. FDR Park, which was known as League Island Park when it was opened in 1913, was designed by the Olmsted brothers, sons of Frederick Law Olmsted who designed Central Park. FDR park contains a golf course, sports and recreation areas, playgrounds, landscape architecture, picnic areas, and lots of shady paths and trails to walk.

FDR Park is also home to the Asian Market. My neighborhood has a lot of Southeast Asian grocery stores and restaurants, so this was not too exotic to me. Still, the smells were wonderful and I jumped at the chance to try fried crickets. Hey, why not? But they were out. I had some water ice instead (this is Philadelphia after all) and bought a jar of kimchi to take home.

Meadow Lake in FDR Park is man made, but connected to the natural tidal wetlands that are low lying and increasingly prone to flooding. Climate change and increased usage is changing the park.

The park is also home to many invasive species of plants which threaten the delicate balance of the natural ecosystem if they are not eradicated. Not every non-native plant and animal is a threat, but when they interfere with the natural ecology of the area, they can be a threat to the well being of the park.

So there is a new plan to reimagine, reconfigure and redesign FDR park for the future. This will entail relocating ball fields, replacing some lawns used for sporting events with artificial surfaces, and moving things around. Not everyone is happy with the plan, which has been in the making for some time. Quite frankly, I do not have the knowledge to have an opinion, although it’s clear that something must be done to improve the drainage and clear out the invasive plants. Until the dust settles, I intend to go back and enjoy the park.

Hot Summer and Bob’s Garden 2022

The sun is beating down in South Philadelphia. One of the best parts of summer in my neighborhood is Bob’s urban garden.

It’s hot enough to make fish soup in the koi pond!

I wonder what kind of plant this is?

This picture is from earlier in the summer.

Suzanne Valadon at the Barnes Foundation

I saw the Suzanne Valadon exhibit at the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia last Fall. Now that the dog days of August are upon us, I have finally decided to write about it.

The Barnes Foundation, for those who are not familiar with it, is an art oasis on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia. It used to be located in Merion, a Philadelphia suburb. The move to Philadelphia was controversial, and a testament to the fact that money pretty much rules everything in the art world and everywhere else. But there’s no denying that it practically took an act of congress to gain admission to the Barnes when it was in Merion. And there’s also no denying that many more people get to see the collection now that it’s in Philadelphia. You can read more about the history of the Barnes Foundation here.

Suzanne Valadon (1865-1938) was a French artist who “never attended the Academy and was never confined to a tradition.

She was tough because she had to be. She was born out of wedlock and had to make her own way in the world that didn’t treat women very well unless they had money or position behind them.

But she was talented, ambitious and smart. She didn’t have any formal training but started drawing at an early age. She knew many of the French Impressionists, and served as a model for some of them. She was reportedly in love with Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Edgar Degas was a friend who greatly respected her drawing and served as a teacher and artistic mentor. He taught her printmaking so she would have a way to make a living other than being a model, a laundress, milliner, waitress, or countless other jobs she held.

She was an independent woman who lived as she wished and who was admired because she “painted like a man,” or with masculine sensibilities. Some said that she painted “with an energy unheard of in a woman.” I am not sure what that’s supposed to mean. She used bold colors and bold contours. I guess you could say that she painted like she meant it.

She ultimately married and had a son who became a well-known artist in his own right.

In an interview late in her life, she said, “I found myself, I made myself, I said what I had to say.”

If you are interested in learning more about Suzanne Valadon, here’s a timeline of her life, a short biography, and a summary of her artistic legacy.

A New Twist on Faux Techniques in Polymer Clay

Polymer clay can imitate just about any substance from turquoise, to amber, to red coral, to lapis lazuli, and just about any other stone you’ve seen. Beach glass, fordite, ceramic, and different metals. You can do it all.

Tory Hughes was, I believe, the first polymer artist to popularize faux techniques in polymer clay, first through her work, then through her videos, then in her book, Polymer – The Chameleon Clay (2002).

I tried most of the faux techniques when I first started working in polymer back in the stone age. (here’s an example), but I haven’t tried any of the imitative techniques lately. Then a friend gave me a lovely Southwestern silver cuff bracelet set with different colors of turquoise, onyx, coral and mother of pearl. Some of the stones had fallen out. Could I recreate them in polymer? Why not try? I don’t have any “before” pictures of the bracelet, but I am happy with how it turned out.

You can see that turquoise comes in many colors as does mother of pearl.

I used Premo translucent, white, and a bit of pearl and silver for the mother of pearl and a combination of a Premo blue mixture, green, translucent, and a smidge of black for the turquoise. I did my best to match the colors to the stones in the bracelet, baked them, and then trimmed and filed them to fit into the bracelet. I couldn’t bake them in the bracelet because the real stones are held in with epoxy which would have melted in my oven. Then I would have had to reglue all the stones!

Here’s one of the faux turquoise pieces and a tiny chip of faux mother of pearl that I glued into the bracelet with fresh epoxy. I roughed up the baked polymer and the metal as best I could before gluing. I left a dab of the mixed epoxy on my work table to make sure it cured thoroughly.

I hope my friend likes the results.