NOW CURATING: YOMI
s t r e e t a r t i s t
Eamon is a Philly cartoonist born and bred who draws his best cartoons in bars. He is also a podcaster on the Highlander Rewatched podcast. I became familiar with his work at a show put on by Philadelphia artist collective, Phantom Hand, and have been a fan ever since. His comics are witty and intelligent, much like the man himself. I approached Eamon about illustrating a Tip Jar piece because I admire his work and genuinely wanted to get some of his advice on how to be wildly successful as an artist! Luckily he’s sharing it with all of us. Thanks Eamon! Here are some more ways to see his work: Instagram & Twitter @eamonbdoc / Tumblr eamondoc.tublr.com
-Kelly Kozma, curator
I met Sequoia when we attended Moore College of Art and Design, an undisclosed amount of time ago. She holds a BFA for Fashion Design and Art History and was the first student at Moore to earn this dual major. We reconnected through her project Art in Bars, where she gave me one of my first shows, at a Salon in Northern Liberties. Through this initiative she sought to promote emerging artists, alternative exhibition spaces, and art outside of the gallery scene. I chose Sequoia to write for Curate This because she knows something about everything. She can talk jive about everything from pop culture, to Julia Child’s recipes, to Native American art history, all while kicking your ass at Settlers of Catan. Enjoy her commentary on public art!
-Kelly Kozma, curator
There is an icebreaking game I play at parties: What’s your least favorite piece of public art? It’s an excellent conversation starter; people love to hate, and the responses come quickly—The Franklin head on The Parkway and the lumpy figures atop Society Hill. Someone names a mural they find trite, and another will dismiss the proliferation of Zagars. The holographic columns at Broad and Washington and the Comcast figures are among some of the unpopular public art pieces.
Without fail, William King’s Stroll will be mentioned.
You are aware of Stroll, perhaps. If you’ve found yourself at the terminus of South Street, or looked up at the right time while speeding down I-95, you’ve seen the stiff steel stick figures lumbering atop the pedestrian bridge, and the large and inconsequential sculptural installation attempting to bridge the city to the river. You know it, generally, but the details are imprecise. The number of figures. The proportions.
Why does it matter? Stroll an old work, in a style not currently in fashion. The artist is dead. It’s innocuous. It’s not even hateable, truly, because of its stifling mediocrity. How can one passionately argue against something that has nothing to say for itself?
Public art is an expression of a city, a visual of its pride and priorities, where the powers that be put that One Percent. The casual visitor or citizen often only interact with our public art, and only when said public art—sanctioned and “street”—presents itself in their path. These accidental encounters form the subconscious opinion of the creative capital of a city.
It is easy to despair and disparage the top grossing echelon of the contemporary art market, the dizzying sales commanded at art fairs and auctions. To argue about the demerits of artists who don’t craft their own work, the lazy, self-devouring orobus of art coopting the images of advertising, brands, popular culture, and regurgitating the pantheon of art history. Who deserves placement in the hallowed halls of our prestigious museums? But what of the creep of the insidious mundane, the bland and flat that is given the meager funds, the casual eyeballs?
It’s the flatness that niggles. Even under the rationalization of simplification Stroll is a failure. The stick figures are rigid in their stride, negating the implication of motion, emotion, and opinion. The material is pragmatic and inexpressive. The scale of the sculpture is off, neither comfortably visible by pedestrians, nor does it impress by dwarfing the viewer. The arrangement is inconsequential and uninspired.
It is easy for the layperson to trot out the tired cliche of, “I could have done that” when belittling a work of art, yet that argument is never presented when Stroll is being debated. It’s never, “I could have done that,” but just “why?” Stroll elicits a shrug.
King is capable of other similar figurative work that at least achieves whimsy—which, while not challenging concept, would be an improvement on the heavy humorlessness of Stroll. Stroll is a street sign, bereft of statement, heft, insight, or joy. It is utilitarian without the satisfaction of good design. Stroll is an irritation because it fails as an expression. It exists, large but uncommenting, stating nothing. Despite the scale of the work, it frequently fails to register with public audience, who pass through it unawares, and depart without it having made an impression.
Think of all the sculpture in Philadelphia that is just lousy with interaction. The area around City Hall and the Parkway is teeming with people actively living with their public art—adults passing by murals mid-commute, children clambering about and around sculptural installations. And then think of the joylessness of Stroll hovering at the edge of the city, above the freeway. The lack of play. The lack of awareness.
I think of the stumbled-upon works of all styles from the past hundred and fifty years hidden away in the recesses of Fairmount park, those with plaques frequently indicating their relocation from previous places of importance. Stroll can’t be discretely shuffled off in a future round of public improvement—where else could it possibly exist? It is site-specific to the point of dullness.
Interesting new work is constantly being added in the public sphere, yet Stroll will remain in the public eye as example of what Philadelphia views as fundable, always mentioned when quizzed as to the worst piece of public art.
Wouldn’t it be lovely to struggle to play that party game?
Photo by Christopher William Purdom.
Kelly Kozma’s work is intricate, well-crafted, and process-driven. Her textual and visual creations have been shown nationally, gaining attention from noted art publications like Juxtapoz and Knotwe. Kelly’s collaboration with Curate This has given new vitality to our Disposable Life prompt. In a style that reflects her artistic process, Kelly deconstructs snapshots of her life and establishes a new masterpiece. Check out her work currently showing at the Sonesta Hotel and view all of Kelly’s available work here.
-Amanda V. Wagner, co-founder
When approached by Curate This with a list of prompts for their blog, I immediately chose Disposable Life, where I was to document my life for a week through the lens of a disposable camera. I had wanted to do something along these lines for a while, so I thought this was a sign and went with it. In the beginning, I thought it was going to be all about the end game; looking at the photographs and seeing how I spent my week, as well as sharing that with everyone who was viewing. However, the experience of taking the pictures became equally, if not more important.
Because most of us are so accustomed to taking two, four, or twenty digital shots of the same images to get it all just right, the act of pressing down on the button of the disposable camera became very daunting. On the first day I think I took one, maybe two pictures. All of a sudden I became extremely picky about what I was going to document. Does this image accurately describe me as an artist? Did I already take one similar to this? What does this say about me? It shook my confidence in a way I hadn’t expected. Another thing it did though, was make me hyper aware of how I was spending my time, and in turn I had a pretty productive week.
I took pictures inside my studio, one at the mailbox store when I was shipping some art, a few at gallery shows and a bunch in Center City at an event one night. You will not see any of these. When I got the pictures back from the developer, there were only 14 in the paper envelope. The rest were unprintable; a fate granted often by disposable cameras. I was disappointed. I had spent a week carefully curating a selection of brightly-colored images for your viewing pleasure and barely had anything to show for it. I felt like I messed up the assignment and this was a reflection of my failure for all to see.
I had the pictures in my studio for a few days before I pulled them out again. I flipped through those 14 images many times before I realized that there was something to them. It was Philly. It was Fall. Were they the best renderings possible? Absolutely not. But I got my city for sure. A South Philly Halloween block party. Street art in NoLibs. The Silk City sign glowing at night. And even a glimpse into Caitlin McCormack’s show, Mnemosyne, at Paradigm Gallery.
To take this project a step forward I decided to incorporate the photos into a new piece of art. I’ve been working on a new series, where I punch out and then hand-sew thousands of paper circles together. The act of deconstruction, followed by rebuilding and strengthening, is reminiscent of the human experience and one that I depict often in my work. The finished piece mimics our memories, which are sometimes jumbled and hazy, sometimes crisp and clear as day.
These were not the pictures I set out to take, the palette I had anticipated or the experience I thought I would have, but as they say . . . happy accidents.
Photos by Jason Chen