1801 Overture, the finale

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I began telling you about the artists of 1801 Howard St. (or 119 W. Montgomery Ave., the building straddles the two blocks) in a previous post. Here I’m going to run some pictures of the apartment/studios I visited. I am sorry I don’t have more true studio shots. What was I thinking? I spent time in the studios of Carrie Cook and Jon Schoff, Steven Earl Weber, Sonny and Ellen Fleming and John Gibbons and Isobel Sollenberger. And each space was unique and a kind of labor of love involving lofts, partition walls, wall-removal and other unique touches made by creating an apartment out of what was rough warehouse space.

Carrie Cook and Jon Schoff‘s apartment/studio is off the building’s courtyard on the first floor. Cook’s living room served as an annex gallery for the group during its recent event and some of the works are still installed. Here’s a shot of a video piece made by Michael Gibbons, John’s brother and a member of Bardo Pond.


The studio space adjoining the living room is where Cook and Schoff makes their art. For Cook, the process sometimes involves making clay models, drawing them, then squishing the clay to make another model to draw. Cook likes to draw with silver plaka, a design medium. Her drawings depict ur-animals, creatures from the id of life, not quite there but threatening to come to life in your dreams. The large drawing on the far wall above, however, is a realistic drawing of the family dog made by John.


This is one of Cook’s drawings on the inside of the red door to their apartment. He is a guard dog of a sort.


Here’s a painting by John of red bricks and a blanket. The piece sits on a brick wall painted white. I love that.


Each apartment is completely different from the next. Here is Ellen and Sonny Fleming‘s place which is a nice combination of 50s era diner and loft chic.

The apartment has glorious light and a step-up lounge, a guest room loft and is a complete live/work space in one room.


This is one of Ellen’s glass and metal paintings, through which you can see the rest of the room.


This is Sonny playing with their dog in the kitchen space. Notice the step up to the platform lounge behind him.


Sonny is working on a rocking chair. He figures since he built skateboard ramps he can build anything. He’s probably right.


John Gibson and Isobel Sollenberger‘s place opens on a kitchen shared with another couple. The studio space, off the kitchen, is full of glorious light and it’s set up at the moment as a showroom for their art. All I could focus on was the the velvety smooth art, some of which was on the floor or close to the floor as seen here (I asked if it was art for the dog. Don’t laugh, I know some people who put art near the floor for the cat.)

The plaster and paper works get their color from black ink which, John says, changes color when it interacts with the chemicals in the plaster and with the rag content of the Rives BFK paper they use.


This oval piece has thick topography that evokes rivers and craters and you can’t see it here here but there’s a line of intense yellow color separating the white moonrise from the dark sky. It’s a gorgeous piece (and I’m sorry I didn’t capture it in its entirety…Doh!)

The works have an almost old world charm with their floral motifs and evocations of crumbling walls.

Several of the works, John said, were inset right into the walls, in a way playing off the plaster of the walls. I love embedding plaster art into plaster walls. The two works above the shelf are embedded in the wall.

Steven Earl Weber‘s place is another bravura space I’m sorry I didn’t capture for you. Weber’s a wall mover and he showed me where there used to be a wall separating this from that. He and his girlfriend, who is a dancer with Pennsylvania Ballet, live amidst his art. His sculpture studio and living room partially feed into each other. And the two kilns for his ceramic pieces are right there in the living room.


Weber took it upon himself to clean up the mail room for the building which formerly was a resting place for junk left behind by residents who moved out. He slapped a coat of white paint on the space and put up a few of his sculptures and voila, a great exhibit space. The sculpture of the white knee in a box refers to the artist’s father, and the small images to the left are photo-ceramic multiples that refer to the artist’s grandmother who was a dancer. In fact the multiple images were like a chorus line of smiling dancers.


Weber, who likes to make sculptures that incorporate found wood with cast objects he’s made here has a piece with cast rocks (made of hydrocal and painted to evoke real rocks) and a chalk drawing of running legs.

That’s it for my report. Watch for these artists and the other 1801 artists. Stuff is cooking in Kensington.

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