Report from the neighborhood

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clockwise, from top left, Leda–Sugar Gilder, Maureen–Echidna, Simone–Ermine and Tom–River Otter, by Julie Bradley Norton

A small home gallery in West Philadelphia has been operating for a couple of years, right next door to where Roberta used to live back in the day, and just three blocks from where I live. How could I have not known about it?

Currently up in Gallery 13 w. (named for the 13 Trolley plus a W to differentiate it from another Gallery 13) is a series of paintings of animals with souls, by Julie Bradley Norton, whose background is in illustration and whose artists statement is sincere about the Buddhist belief in the souls of even inanimate things. Also the exhibit includes one of the Fringe Festival rolling toilets by Steve and Billy Blaise Dufala.

The show is in a house owned by contractor/carpenter Jon Stivers, (who is 47 and still single, he announced). Stivers liked the idea of showing art. “My big brother is an artist…and always had art around,” he said. Brother Mark is in Sacramento, but he studied painting at Tyler, and is a cartoonist whose work appears in Funny Times.

Jon talked his drinking buddy Januario Esteves and his then housemate, Teresa Curran, into putting on shows. Esteves, like Bradley, started out as an illustrator, but he gave it up for fine art after more than 20 years. In most cases, Esteves curates the shows. Here’s more stuff about Esteves that I can’t resist sharing. He was born in Portugal in 1947 and grew up in Angola. In 1962 he came to the U.S. and graduated from the School of Visual Arts in New York in 1969.


Curran posing in Gallery 13 w., with a detail of Norton’s “Maurice–Giraffe”

Curran, a painter and PAFA/Penn alum, now lives around the corner. She worked for a while at Charles More’s gallery and for six months at the Wood Turning Center. The experience shows in the professional way the exhibit is hung. She also curated this show.

While I may not have been aware of the gallery, apparently lots of other people have been, because they show up for openings (really the only time to get in unless you make an appointment). Stivers said the gallery sold stuff in the last four shows. The sales were in the hundreds of dollars range, but not bad for artists without a track record.

The openings include fabulous food and sometimes music. “People come for the food,” said Stivers, which last time included scallops, escargot, and salmon. The idea is to create a feast for the various senses, he said. “I like socializing, and I’m starting to get used to entertaining. I used to agonize.”

Curran, who is now a full-time house painter and is teaching herself decorative techniques, said the neighborhood was full of talented people.

The gallery has also shown some more established artists like Robert Asman and John Overmayer.


Charlie–Llama by Julie Bradley Norton

Norton’s 18 paintings mostly are iconic animals against white or black backgrounds. She hasn’t done a lot of this kind of painting before, and some of that inexperience shows in the surfaces. But the animals are human–kind of like Edward Hicks’ Peaceable Kingdom critters, especially his alter-ego, the lion. Norton’s beautifully simplified, slightly comic animals, besides delivering graphic punch, have names as well as eyes that do seem to serve as windows to their souls.


Billy Blaise Dufala and Steven Dufala’s rolling toilet

Billy and Steve Dufala’s rolling toilet is displayed with surprising dignity on a little rug that serves as a pedestal substitute in this show. The tricycle chassis is elegantly elongated and lyrical. So’s the paint. Steve did the detailing and Billy Blaise the construction work. The porcelain throne is a readymade, a salute to Marcel Duchamp’s “Fountain.” In case you were out of town during the Fringe Festival, this piece was created as part of a fleet of 14 or so pieces of rolling stock, created to parade on the street, removed from the fine-art world of the gallery. It holds up well in this alternate venue.

The show is up through April 7, 4504 Regent Street, Philadelphia. 267-312-1426. A portion of Norton’s sales will be donated to an organization providing support for endangered animals.

Upcoming shows at Gallery 13 w. are, April 22 to June 10, a group show with Norton, Maija Miettinen, Maija Jesperson, David Guinn and Pavel Efremoff; July 22 to Sept. 9, “The Figure Revisited,” with James Lint, John Overmeyer, Robert Asman and Adam Presti; and Oct. 21 to Dec. 9, Salvatore Cerceo

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