In The Sanctuary

I did something a little different this week.   I attended the Wednesday night In The Sanctuary series at the Fleisher Art Memorial where my figure drawing teacher   Bernard Collins joined  DJ Razor Ramon and artist/activist Priscilla Anacakuyani for a collaborative spoken word/live painting/music  performance.

 

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Bernard and DJ Razor Ramon.  Bernard read-rapped-sang his poetry while Ramon kept the beat.

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Bernard and Pricilla painting.

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5-4Bernard invited a member of the audience to come up and sing.  Her strong dynamic voice to everyone by surprise.

 

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The rear of the sanctuary.

 

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To read more about Bernard Collins and his work press here.

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Home Decorating or How to Hide Your Television Set.

Our ongoing home renovations that would probably take other people maybe 6 -8 months are nearly over.  The floors are down.  The tiny kitchen is done.  Since we moved the white behemoth of an entertainment center down to the basement for my workshop and got a cool mid-century modern credenza to replace it, I have been trying to decide what to do with a now-exposed living room wall and the TV.   First, I  found  someone who was not reduced to tears by horizontal studs (this is an old house)  to hang the TV on the wall.  Then I cobbled together a sound system from used and discontinued electronics, hooked it up and mounted the speakers on the wall.
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I wanted the “media” wall to be relaxing and not too busy with all the electronics.  I remember there was a time in my live when the more wires and gizmos I had, the better, but now I like simple. And I didn’t want the living room to be a shrine to the TV.

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Here’s how I solved the design dilemma.  I love gold frames and over the years had found a few on the street.  They got a cleaning and some repair if needed.

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Some got a paint touch up.  The I went to my local paint store and picked out a nice dark color with a greenish undertone to it .  I am happy to say that it covered the Martha Stewart stencils ( from another life) in one coat (helped by a first coat of Kilz. Who ever invented that stuff deserves a medal)1

The object on the TV screen is a Dali-esque clock.

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And here’s how it looks.  The Le Mutts are thrilled.

I have some more unconventional decorating in my house.  You can see some pictures here.

The Fabric Workshop: A Philadelphia Treasure


 

I recently had the opportunity to see an exhibit at the new home of the Fabric Workshop and Museum .  It’s a roomy, comfortable space that takes up several buildings on Arch Street in Philadelphia.   You no longer have to climb flights of stairs to get to the exhibits and it’s conveniently located on across the street from the Philadelphia Convention Center.

The current exhibit, New American Voices II showcases the work of  four invitational artists-in-residence: Bill Smith, Jiha Moon, Robert Pruitt and Jim Drain.    New American Voices II was definitely not the visual version of a string quartet; it was the work of four soloists, each of whom chose different media and themes to express a unique point of view.   The FMW  tries to showcase artists from across the United States with varied backgrounds and perspectives and encourages them to work with materials they might not have used before.  From what I saw the FMW accomplished its mission and it looks like the artists enjoyed the process.  The exhibition had so much to offer that I can only hit the highlights  in this post.  To get the full flavor, you must see it for yourself.

 

South Korean-born Jiha Moon’s mixed media wall pieces combine collage, sewing, painting, and screen printing with an Asian color aesthetic.   She makes  plentiful  use of Asian and American popular culture symbols and much of her work reminds me of traditional Asian embroidery, not because of any needlework she might usem, but because the designs are expansive and flowing.  Much of her work consists of fanciful pieces that incorporate images from folklore and advertising , but she showed her serious side in a work that appeared to explore the tensions between North and South Korea.     The piece below, which is a little different from the others, features pin cushions, ribbons and beads.

                                       

Jiha Moon

Jim Drain’s huge (and I mean XXXXXL) colorful  machine-knitted dolmen sleeve sweaters remind me of  the big suit David Byrne wears in Stop Making Sense, and fantastic Noh costumes.  I suppose they could be worn, but they were displayed on stands that let the viewer examine every nuance of the designs.  A two-dimensional picture cannot convey the surprises that jump out as you circle the sweaters.  The colors shift and there are lots of subtle details and embellishments.   At first, the color choices appear to be mostly random but on further examination, you realize that every skein and thread works with everything else in the sweater.  Nothing is there that doesn’t belong.

 

Jim Drain

What fascinated me most about Robert Pruitt’s work was his use of period cameras to photograph members of a fictional African-American family to depict ancestors from years past like you’d see in a family album.  Now that’s attention to detail and real dedication.  For me the most powerful photograph was one of a young woman wearing a grass skirt and what appears to be a European colonial officer’s dress uniform jacket.  The golden shoulder cord is replaced by rope that appeared to be a noose.   Pruitt also uses  traditional African symbols and imagery pulled from contemporary urban America.   I found his work  disturbing and compelling.

Robert Pruitt

Bill Smith’s mechanical sculptures meld engineering and art in a way that any fan of Jules Verne or Nicola Tesla would admire, but his inclusion of organic objects like Emu eggs and feathers along with organic looking plastic forms that resemble jellyfish or brain synapses takes his work out of the realm of Steampunk into another world that seems really strange (or is it strangely real?)  Along with Emu eggs, he takes water, magnets,  quirky copper wire, electronics and computers to fashion  several interactive contraptions that manage to look organic, old-fashioned and futuristic all at once.    When walked up to one sculpture,  the Emu egg started to spin, the wires started to sway and the room  filled with a low humming sound.  Then projectors started flashing images onto the white walls of the gallery.  Amazing.   Here’s a video of a similar device he designed and built.

New American Voices II runs until the Spring.  Admission is only $3.00 but you can  donate more if you like.    Treat yourself to this exhibit and the ones planned for the future.  We are so lucky to have a venue like the FMW in Philadelphia.  Let’s support it.

For more pictures of the artists’ work, press here, here, here, and here.

What I made in Olivia Surratt’s Class


I first met Olivia Surratt at a two-day workshop the  Philadelphia Area Polymer Clay Guild sponsored with Robert Dancik.  For some reason, I liked Olivia right from the start.  I don’t know why; sometimes that’s the way it goes.  So when Olivia offered to teach a wire and fusing class to benefit the guild, I jumped at the chance to take it, even though wire working is not new to me.  Not only has Olivia studied with some great teachers, no matter what you think you know, you can always learn something new or a better way to do something from a good teacher.  Olivia did not disappoint me.

One of the first things I did was to replace my portable butane torch with the model Olivia likes best, the original Blazer GB 2001 Self Igniting Micro Blazer Torch. It actually costs less than the torch I already have, but works so much better.

Olivia  and Pauline, her trusty assistant, led us through her methods for fusing fine solver and  wrapping with copper wire.  I used beads I made. Here are some pictures.  I give the class an A plus!

It’s Mural Arts Month in Philadelphia.  Go out and kiss a mural!!!

For earlier posts on Philadelphia Murals,  press here and here.

Twenty Five Years of Mural Art in Philadelphia

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Happy Birthday to the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program which is 25 years old this month and still going strong.   I feel lucky to live in a city where I can see beautiful paintings on the sides of buildings where ever I go.  I get to walk past two of my favorite murals on my way to work.

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The mural at Hahnemann Hospital on North Broad Street is near my workplace.

  

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The mural of former mayor Frank Rizzo is near my home in the heart of South Philadelphia. Some people loved him and some people hated him, but he was always larger than life. And so is his mural.

Here’s to the next 25 years!

But wait, there’s more! 

Wall Watching is an invitational photography exhibit of showing the murals as part of the city landscape instead big paintings.  The exhibit is free to the public and runs to November 13 in the West portal hallway of City Hall in Philadelphia.  You can even  follow the mural program on Twitter!   And check out Art in City Hall  to get information about the many other interesting art exhibits scheduled there.