First Friday in Old City

The other night I found myself in Old City for First Friday where I stopped by the 3rd Street Gallery, the Clay Studio, and the Rodger La Pelle Galleries. There were plenty of paintings, photographs, ceramics, and more to see, but here are some of the artists that caught my attention.

Keith Sharp, Mounds series, photographs

I usually gravitate towards paintings over photography, however, Keith Sharp’s Variations Series at the 3rd Street Gallery won me over this past First Friday. Sharp captures different geographical elements much like a portrait painter in his “Mounds” Series, placing the objects front and center. As the sky in each photograph of the six part series gets darker, the mounds get lighter, moving from a drab, shadowed setting to the juxtaposition of a brilliant blue and white in his final photograph of the series. The pieces from the Variations Series look at the way we see things when isolated as opposed to in multiples. In this series, the locations, seasons, and time of day vary, and because of these nuances, different parts of each photograph grab your attention. Sharp’s work shows how one object, even a mountain, can be seen as part of something else; part of the landscape, but not necessarily the focal point.

Across from Sharp’s work are the paintings of Kristine Flannery. The subject matter ranges from cityscapes to flowers to fish, yet all are vibrant. Each of the paintings is full of motion, particularly her paintings of flowers, where the colors are sometimes blurred and shadowy, as if the petals are falling towards the edge of the canvas. Despite the lively colors, I found the paintings a bit underwhelming.

Edith Garcia, Couple (In Love…Keep Them Crossed), mixed media, at the Clay Studio

The Clay Studio didn’t disappoint. Michael Fujita’s exhibition Artificially Flavored is, in one word, colorful. There’s a fun, commercial look to the pieces that hold their own in the open gallery. The resin cups of “Daily Operation” and his ceramic and resin “Slices” in an assortment of colors reminded me of props for a funky Of Montreal music video.

The guest artists in residence offered up a variety of subjects. Michael Moore’s sculptures reminded me a bit of Sharp’s photography, capturing geological features in abstract shapes. There is both fluidity and boundaries to the shapes he has created. Much like Sharp’s emphasis on changing perceptions, Moore captures the changes and markings of time. Edith Garcia also looks at the changes of time, focusing on mankind’s “scars of living.” Her piece “Couple (In Love… Keep Them Crossed)” is a mixed media sculpture that hangs from the gallery wall. It’s morbid, grotesque, and offers a question of suffering and companionship. Can one let go of someone who has shared and caused them pain?

A Deborah Schwartzkoph pitcher at the Clay Studio

My favorite artist at the Clay Studio, however, was Deborah Schwartzkoph. I’m a sucker for beautiful pottery and that is exactly what she gives us—functional pieces with a little class. The shapes of her pitchers are organic, constructed by combining slab forms with thrown cylindrical shapes. They resemble the shape of a female’s body: soft, sensual, yet modest.

Terrence Laragione, Momentary Lapse of Reason

My final stop was at the Rodger LaPelle Gallery on North 3rd Street. The paintings by Joe Naujokas had a collage-like feel focusing on urban spaces, but I was more drawn to Terrence Laragione’s Making Tracks exhibition. Laragione’s style is fresh and a little raw. The desolate, urban subject matter reminded me slightly of Edward Hopper. His painting “Momentary Lapse of Reason” captures Philadelphia’s everyday crazy. A man in a full bunny suit walks along the sidewalk while a horrified child clings to his mother who has the child’s stuffed rabbit clutched under her arm. She seems bored, accustomed to such a strange sight while waiting for the trolley that is coming down the street. There’s something frightening about the image, but at the same time, it appears that something so out of the ordinary has become normal, another daily occurrence to the woman. Laragione gives us a somber Philadelphia–one that is isolated and a bit eerie, but one that tells a great story.