POST post

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A couple of times in the past two weeks, Roberta and I have had discussions about being so overwhelmed that we stop producing altogether. That’s sort of why, in past years, I have skipped the Philadelphia Open Studio Tours (POST). So many studios, so many times to park the car, so many quarters for parking meters, so little time.

But this year, I noticed that POST, now 6 years old, was offering a tour, which meant leaving the driving to them. Roberta and I both opted to go.

I forgot to count the number of people aboard our little Trolley Works trolley, so I’ll guess 12ish, some folks my age (oh, we don’t reveal, so if you haven’t been looking at my picture on the blog, you can just forget about getting it out of me here), some younger, some in pairs, some alone. A nice mix.

Our first stop was 314 Brown, a building about boot the last of its artists because gentrification and condo-ization has struck. This means the artists studios that helped turn the neighborhood into an attractive area are being destroyed by their own success. We got this information from our tour guide (and friend of mine), artist Ed Bronstein, who, as an ex-architect, takes a keen interest in the ups and downs of the city environment.

Bronstein presented a great deal of information with diffident charm. He read us statements from each of the artists we were about to visit and gave us a little of their biographical information, and he gave us a little POST history. We learned that in year one, the tour included only 13 artists, whereas this year, there are 200 participating.

By time we arrived at each studio we were aware of the urban environment, the studio environment, and a bit of each artist’s interests.

Back to Northern Liberties and 314 Brown Street.

Charlotte Schatz, has been painting high-color industrial and urban architectural work of late, using oil sticks and acrylics. “I’m a sculptor who’s painting,” she said, attributing the switch to trouble with her thumbs. With that in mind, her paintings snapped into focus, the buildings and industrial shapes looking like sculptures.

Here’s a plan for a mural commission she is working on for a factory that makes mixtures for components of other products.

Looking on the bright side of the need to move out of 314 Brown, she said, “The neighborhood has been wonderful.” But she’s looking forward to her new studio a little further north, in a building developed by the Kensington South Community Development Corporation. It’s three blocks from the Crane Arts Center and Icebox.

Schatz, while painting at the Jack Frost Sugar refineries, painted a hard hat for one of the workers. Then she painted her own. Here she is with the hat and Roberta. These photos give some sense of the studio space she is leaving behind.

We also saw work by two other artists still in the building. Here’s a picture of Barbara Schaff’s nest paintings in oil and mixed media. Bronstein bought one of them while we stood there looking.

Then we went to Rebecca Gilbert’sstudio. She also is a nest person, as well as a bird artist. Here’s a picture of three of her fragile, woven nests with a couple of her silk birds behind them. She let us feel the raw silk fabric she was using to stuff the birds. Mmmmm. The birds, she said, were printed on dampened silk. Her descriptor in the POST book said “2D and 3D mixed media prints about love, communication, and mortality.” That seemed right.

Here’s a print on paper with the plate below it. The plate was a work of art in and of itself.

POST Coordinator Virginia Batson, an artist in her own right, also came along for the ride. We’ve been corresponding with her, so meeting her was frosting on the cake. She mentioned that Gilbert was a friend of hers.

Next up, a visit to Jim Brossy’s studio and house on Fairmont Ave. The painting/assemblages bristled with urban effluvia, 9-to-5 work-life artifacts, and television imagery. On our way there, Bronstein mentioned Brossy’s partner, video producer Debbie Rudman, and stumbled with good humor over what term of partnership to entitle her with. The issue of what to call significant others kept baffling Bronstein as we plunged further and further north on our tour. (His own significant other, his wife Sophy, was also along for the ride). His humor about the language gap created by changing customs served as a repeating theme for the tour.

The house, in contrast to Brossy’s encrusted art work, was an oasis of peace and calm, an artwork in and of itself, full of light and color. Even Brossy’s agitated art looked calm in here. We were shown around by Rudman, who built the house with Brossy, and Rudman’s sister.

Here’s a shot of the toilet. A couple of tiles above the throne read “toilet.” There wasn’t a space in this house that didn’t hold my attention, with its thoughtful arrangement and creative use of space.

Then we headed the Fishtown studios of Bill Russell and Mary Galgon. They live upstairs while working on their next house, but the studios themselves and the work were the focus of the visit.

Roberta knew Russell and Galgon from when their children were young, but we also knew Bill from a salon where we began talking about art with a larger world than just ourselves. Back then, he was making a trasition from paintings to painted furniture and screens, still his current endeavor. So if you’ve had it with brown wood furnishings, this is the place to go (above, a couple of samples of Russell’s work).

Here’s a picture of Russell with potential customers. He did sell a piece of his vinegar-finish furniture while we were there.

Here’s a picture of one of Galgon’s still lifes, framed by Russell. she also makes intense, tiny landscapes. She paints in the evenings after working all day.

And here’s a picture of Galgon and Roberta, chatting, with more paintings in the background.

Roberta and I had only one stop left, photographer Matthew Hollerbush’s studio, right behind his house in Fishtown or maybe it was Kensington. Here’s a shot of the garden in between the house and studio.

And here’s a shot of Hollerbush himself with a couple of his photographs.

The tour, which ran in the morning, before the studios were open to the general public, continued on without us. I hope they have it again next year, because it made what was a daunting experience less so, and because it brought me to the studios of several artists whose work was unfamiliar to me. Had I been on my own, I would have gone straight to my buddies out of loyalty.

Post-tour, we headed off to get slapped (see posts here, here and here).

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