A Seed on Diamond Gallery grows

Daniel Petraitis is omnipresent this month, it seems. Besides his iconic t-shirt at Rebekah Templeton, he is in another group show, To-Day is another Day, Make Art at Pterodactyl Gallery. And he also had a too brief, two-week solo show at A Seed on Diamond, a beautiful gallery in a rowhouse on Norris Square.

Daniel Petraitis, 42’s, chrome-plated steel


In Spot Lights Strobe Lights Street Lights, his show at SOD, Petraitis is an alchemist, transforming the dross of our lives into idealizations and ideas. The flash piece of the show is 42’s, a giant version of a hubcap, so refined and shiny, and hung high so average size people have to crane a bit to see themselves in the chrome plating (artist Tasha Doremus is quite tall, which explains why she’s nearly eye-level with the piece). The super hubcap is an apotheosis of value, Versailles on wheels, somewhat ironic, yet still iconic and sincere.

Daniel Petraitis, Ball’n, electroplated copper on cut basketball

But the walk-away favorite for me is Ball’n, a wire cage that floats above a small shelf, and hangs from a transparent nylon fishing line. The cage is made from the disembodied black lines on a basketball. but they are to my mind a somewhat fictional idea of the basketball in motion, whirling and absorbing the forces exerted by bouncing. The conceit grabs a bit of humor from the title and from the slumpy way the lines bulge even as the whole gizmo floats like a wobbly halo.  All at once it’s a promise and a trap.

Amanda Stevenson Lupke, Cigarette Break, 
archival pigment print
, 20 x 27 inches

Also at SOD were photographs of Philly cowboys by Amanda Stevenson Lupke. The 14 archival pigment prints in her show, H.O.O.F., Horse Owners Of Fairmount, are beautiful documentary portraits of people and animals. The only photo that goes somewhere else is Cigarette Break. It too is beautiful, but there’s an overlay of Pop in its evocation of Marlboro Man heroism against a blue-blue sky. I read irony into it, but I think that was more about my response and less about Lupke’s intention.
I do think she loves the people she photographs and means to capture the humanity (or animality in regard to the horses) in each of them. The exhibit’s goal is to raise awareness of and funds for the Fletcher Street community where the men and horses hang out together. (She was giving 10 percent of sales). Lupke, whose web page is under Stevenson, has worked for the New Yorker, the Marine Corps, and a variety of corporate clients.



I am sorry these shows were so brief. The gallery’s life has also been brief. It has only been open for a few months, created by 2008 Leeway Transformation Award winner Betsy Casañas of Semilla Arts Initiative (semilla means seed). The gallery motto, Using art as a catalyst for social change and artistic collaboration as a means of empowering individuals and communities is pretty much the mission of Semilla, which Casañas and her partner Pedro Ospina have been running in the Norris Square community, close to where Casañas grew up. Both organizations are grassroots operations.

A Seed on Diamond is Casañas’ gift to Norris Square–a fair exchange for the low-cost building

The night I stopped in, Casañas told me that she got the house for a song with the help of the Norris Square CDC, in exchange for fixing it up with the gallery–acts of faith on all sides in the transformative power of art.

I didn’t get to Pterodactyl–yet–but the list of artists is intriguing: Leroy Johnson, Doug Herren, Abbey Gates, Petraitis, Steven Earl Weber, Roger Petersen, Jerry Kaba, Stephen Kent and Ira Upin. That show runs to Saturday, June 25, closing reception that night, 8pm to 12am.