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From the vault – November, 2003 – Our art in the middle of the street


Ed. note: In celebration of Artblog’s 10-year anniversary, we are bringing you content from our inaugural year, 2003. In November, 2003, we were peering our peepers towards the pavement. Viewed from above or below, we relished street art’s accessibility as something we can view while waiting for the bus or walking to work. We kept an eye out for painted street signs, symbolic graffiti tags and those colorful mural-covered honor boxes sponsored by Mattathias Schwartz and the Philadelphia Independent. The art was intriguing in all of its casual and anonymous forms and the successes of our search had us dancing in the streets!


Looking up and down and finding art


November 21, 2003

About two years ago I noticed an anonymous street beatification project at the corner of 17th and South. Somebody had put up a landscape painting on the 1 hr parking signpost. The scene of mountains and valley is painted on a thin sheet of metal cut to the dimensions of the official city signs above it. It’s a nice, brushy painting and it’s weathered well outdoors. I like to think of it as a kind of anti-mural– a gift of art that’s not sanctioned, not photoshopped and just humbly hanging out.1hrparking

Anyway, I consider this painting on a post a found object even though I can’t put it in my pocket and bring it home.


Speaking of found objects, my editor at the Weekly, Liz Spikol, is organizing a writing/exhibition project called Philly Phound based on found objects in Philadelphia. Apparently there’s an entire universe of finders out there (see foundmagazine)weaving stories around objects they’ve found in their neighborhoods. (If Joseph Cornell were alive I think he’d approve. His mystery boxes have found object appeal.) By the way, any writers out there interested in participating in Liz’s project, email her at


There’s something about the intersection of South and 17th that brings out the street art. I was walking up 17th St. with Stella the other day and she stopped abruptly at Kater and 17th and pointed down to a mystery piece of stencil art on the sidewalk. I can’t make out the star depicted (Val Kilmer, maybe? or some other slick frat boy type). But it’s a nice, two-color stencil, right there at your feet.


Crossing Kater, the sidewalk on the north side of the intersection has another — equally mysterious — piece of stencil art, this one of a madonna and child, all stylized and curvy-roundy. Is this a group stencil show? Could these two images be the work of two people responding to each other? They’re stylistically very different and yet that blue ink/paint’s pretty consistent.


Speaking of blue, here’s a small sticker I found around the corner on South St. between 16th and 15th (on a favorite postering and stickering wall on the south side of the street). It’s notable mostly for the relationship between the curling edge and the image which seems to relate. It’s a nice small moment on the street.


I don’t often brake for art but I pulled over for this Philadelphia Independent honor box on 22nd and Lombard. The Independent commissioned a couple of artists to paint their boxes a while back. I hadn’t seen this one before and its pop art, bubblegum pink and drippy yellow design appealed.


Painted by alt-illustrator Hawk Krall, the box has a nice, edgy, R. Crumb-iness going on that fits the corner and fits the publication to a t.

Any other Philadelphia found art stories, anybody? Or found art elsewhere in the universe? I’d love to hear them.


Found up on the wire


November 23, 2003

Post by Shelley Spector

The best public/found art I have ever seen in Philly is right in front of my gallery, SPECTOR, on Bainbridge between 5th and 6th. It is a pair of sneakers — actual size — that are made out of plywood and attached to each other by a shoelace. Someone made them and threw them over the telephone wire. If you don’t look carefully they seem 3D and real, especially since someone threw a real pair next to them. There is another pair at 3rd and South. [Ed. –stay tuned for pictures of these sneakers coming soon.]

I noticed them about five years ago and have tried to find out who made them. Does anyone know?


Sneakers up


November 23, 2003


Here’s a photo of those sneakers Shelley was talking about

[see post earlier today].


Cloudy doppelgangers


November 29, 2003


I was clearing out my photo library, moving things to cds and off the computer. You know, trash, trash, move, duplicate, trash. After the big purge, I noticed this nice pair of images left side-by-side in iPhoto. One image is a wall installation by Nami Yamamoto at Vox Populi, from a show several months ago.cloudsreal

The other is a photo I took out a plane window when flying out to the Midwest last month. I believe we were somewhere over Ohio or Michigan. Both images make me smile and I offer them as the sweetness of serendipity…something I can’t get enough of.