Spending a dreary winter afternoon with Philadelphia artist James E. Dupree is like winning a trip to the tropics: He’s warm, funny, gracious, and full of fascinating stories about pinging – and getting pinged by – the conventional art world as an African-American male.
James E. Dupree – Philadelphia’s own Black Picasso
And visiting Dupree’s art-packed, 8,600 square foot studio in Philadelphia’s Mantua section is like exploring an inspiring alternate universe.
Three rooms in the marvelous maze that is Dupree’s West Philadelphia studio Continue reading
When Philadelphia’s Please Touch Museum moved to Fairmount Park’s Memorial Hall in 2008, they asked city artist Leo Sewell to build a replica of the Statue of Liberty’s torch and arm, which had originally been displayed in the park during the 1876 Centennial Exposition.
Leo obliged the children’s museum – with a fun-filled, 40-foot rendition that features everything from toys and skis, to discarded license plates and road signs.
Leo Sewell’s Lady Liberty tribute took three years to plan and construct. (Photo courtesy of Leo Sewell.)
PLAYING IN THE (JUNK) YARD
Leo’s introduction to the joys of junk came early, when he explored the dump near his childhood home. His dad taught him to use tools, and soon he was shaping and assembling industrial discards into wonderful new objects.
Leo constructs a flamingo in his studio. The bird and its partner now grace the lobby of a Florida business building.
(Continued from Wednesday, March 29. Click here to read Part 1…)
While Philadelphia artist Lou Hirshman first became known in the 1930s and 1940s for his witty three-dimensional caricatures of public figures, his subject matter evolved with the decades.
By the 1960s, he was using his found-object constructions to comment on social types ranging from psychiatrists and dictators, to pot smokers and TV viewers.
Hirshman’s 1962 “The Duel” shows two combatants – deftly outlined in long strands of string – locked in eternal combat by the children’s scissors that bind them. Their matching physiques and identical button faces hint at a different type of duel – an internal one.
A major perk of writing our Unexpected Philadelphia blog and website is the connections we make with intriguing Philadelphians, past and present.
In October, 2016, we led you on a photo tour through the art-filled home and garden of Philadelphia Dumpster Diver Randy Dalton and former Inquirer editor Michael Martin Mills. Among their treasures was this 1963 portrait of then-President John F. Kennedy by the late Philadelphia artist Lou Hirshman….
Artist Lou Hirshman transformed coconut and peanut shells, matzo, peas and Chiclets into this witty caricature of JFK. Note the fish-shaped tie.
BIRTH OF AN ARTIST – AND AN ART FORM
Which is what led us last week to a fun phone conversation with Hirshman’s son and daughter, William (Bill) Hirshman and Deborah Donnelly.
It’s tour time again!
Over the past 8 months, Unexpected Philadelphia has taken you to 8 inspiring, art-filled homes belonging to the Philadelphia Dumpster Divers – that warm and wacky band of artists and collectors who exhibit, socialize and produce witty, up-cycled art together.
Today we’re heading to the home and studio of Ellen Benson, sister of Divers’ co-founder Neil Benson, whose house we’ve already visited.
(Ellen in her living room with what she modestly calls “The Wall”.
About a third of the work is hers; the rest hails from around the globe.)
First, take famed architect R. Brognard Okie, who designed a Colonial Revival masterpiece for a young married couple in 1902. (Paid for by the groom’s father, of course….)
(This wonderfully inviting inglenook shows Okie’s love of woodwork and clever design. With those big windows on the landing, how did he hide the fireplace chimney?)
Next, take Ann and Ev Keech, who stumbled on the fixer-upper home just outside Philadelphia in 1977, and began administering tender loving care while raising three children there.
(Did we mention the elaborate woodwork? And, yes, Okie carefully designed the fireplace columns to match those seen outside on the porch.)