Introducing Our New Dumpster Diver House Tour: Meet Leo Sewell

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.

17_05_04 1 Leo Sewell Liberty Torch LSLeo 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.

17_05_04 2 Leo Sewell DC_1618Leo constructs a flamingo in his studio.   The bird and its partner now grace the lobby of a Florida business building.

With a BA in economics and an MA in art history from the University of Delaware,  Leo was living every artist’s dream by the late 1980s:   supporting himself full-time with his art,  and turning out witty interpretations of everything from people and animals, to grandfather clocks and sideboards.

17_05_04 3a Leo Sewell CM_DCA female torso with a rotary dial navel and plastic fish abs holds court with a cat and  penguin.   Leo is best known for his human and animal figures.

Inspired by his work,  fellow “junk artists” Neil Benson and Len Davidson invited him to become a founding member of the Philadelphia Dumpster Divers – that merry band of local assemblage artists who socialize and exhibit art together.

NOTHING  UP  HIS  SLEEVE

Unlike many found-object sculptors,  Leo doesn’t start with taxidermy forms or other bases.   Instead,  he builds his pieces from the inside out,  adding layers of identifiable objects to form bones,  flesh and skin.   At the end,  parts of all three layers are visible.

17_05_04 5 Leo Sewell DC_1832Leo built up his “Ram’s Head Trophy” using everything from toys,  car logos and clocks, to a slide rule,  cabinet hardware and corn-cob holders.

Large pieces,  like the one below,  are typically hollow,  like a basket.

17_05_04 6 Leo Sewell AVAM DC_6029This lumbering stegosaurus greets visitors at Baltimore’s American Visionary Arts Museum.

ARTIST IN RESIDENCE

1980 was a big year for Sewell:   He purchased his 1870s home,  a former carriage house in Philadelphia’s Powelton Village section,  and he met his wife Barbara.   The couple married in 1986 and have a daughter,  Abby.

17_05_04 7 DC_1848Leo isn’t the only family member skilled in fitting pieces together:  Barbara Sewell with one of her handmade quilts.

Their home is an inspiring mix of American furniture,  found and purchased art,  and Leo’s witty constructions.

17_05_04 8 Leo Sewell DC_1757Leo made the grandfather clock case and several of the smaller bulls-eye wall mirrors.  He also built the back on the church pew.  The graffiti painting is actually a rescued garage door panel.

17_05_04 11 Leo Sewell DC_1862Leo made the ski-embellished  jelly cabinet,  the chandelier,  the found-object rocket ship,  the wall art….and the cherry dining table.

THE  TOUR  STARTS  HERE

17_05_04 9 Leo Sewell DC_1624

Ready to tour Leo’s studio and imagination-filled home?   Click here to start!

As always,   when you arrive at our  Unexpected Philadelphia  website,  you can click on any thumbnail photo to page through larger versions of all the images.    You’ll also see a scrollable caption under each photo if you’re on a non-mobile device like a PC or laptop.

17_05_04 10 Leo Sewell DC_1609Larger than life:  Leo with  “My Girlfriend With the Golden Globes”  and  “Trophy for a Big Chef”.

Enjoy!

Kate & Dave

 

 

 

Ready for a New Dumpster Diver House Tour? Meet Ellen Sall

A major perk of hosting our  Unexpected Philadelphia  website is that we get to run happily amok – with cameras in hand – through the homes and studios of our fellow Philadelphia Dumpster Divers,  that merry band of artists who have played,  exhibited and produced witty,  found-object art together since 1992.

So when “Dumpster Diva” Ellen Sall invited us to photograph her South Jersey home last August,  we had our beach clothes packed before the phone call ended.

17_02_22-1-ellen-sall-dc_6644“You expect us to drive all the way to the Jersey shore?  Can we come today??”

BEADED  BEGINNINGS

Ellen and her mom,  Bernice Rosenfeld,  began making beaded jewelry together in the early 1980s,  under the name “By Bernel”.  By the mid-1990s,  Ellen had struck out on her own,  making Fimo clay earrings and pendants that incorporated objects like beads and her own watercolor drawings.

17_02_22-2-ellen-sall-dc_6564Ellen and husband Robert Sall in the living room of what she calls their “HOE” house – “Heaven on Earth”.

She also manipulated wire to create everything from menorahs to miniature chairs.

BORN   AGAIN   LAMPS

Then,  one day,  she fashioned a larger chair from found objects like pots,  pans,  an electric fan and a light,  and christened it her “Electric Chair”.   A brand new business – Born Again Lamps – was launched.

17_02_22-3-ellen-sall-studio-cm_9015Ellen at the entrance of her  Born Again Lamps  studio in Philadelphia.  That’s her “Tea for 2…6, 8, 10” lamp  (complete with a hat-box shade)  at left, and “Espresso Yourself” at right.

Soon she was exhibiting at the Philadelphia Furniture Show and at the Art Rider holiday craft show at New York’s Park Avenue Armory.

17_02_22-4-ellen-sall-lampsLamps just wanna’ have fun:   At left is a piece from Ellen’s “Phoney” series,  shown above a lampshade crafted of jewelry,  trinkets and stitches on wire screen.  At right is “I Can’t Make Up My Mind”,  with her lighted,  color-changing hat.

Before long,  an Ellen lamp appeared in Elle Decor,  Delta Sky magazine did a feature on her,  and people like Sally Jessy Raphael,  Reem Acra and Christopher Lowell bought her work.

KEEPING  US  IN  STITCHES

For beach days when her studio power tools are not handy,  Ellen works with bead collage,  embroidery  and gel pens on photographs, found objects and old linens – a process she likens to creating stream-of-consciousness graffiti.

17_02_22-5-ellen-sall-artAt left is an embroidery in progress.  And,  yes,  the beaded rat trap at right is actually worked on a real Victor rat trap.

THE  TOUR  STARTS  HERE

So,  click here to join our Unexpected Philadelphia photo tour of  Ellen’s art-filled home and studio.

As always,  when you arrive at our website,  you can click on any thumbnail photo to page through larger versions of all the photos.    You’ll also see a scrollable caption under each photo if you’re on a non-mobile device like a PC or laptop.

17_02_22-6-ellen-sall-studio-dc_2098Ellen in her light- and fun-filled space at the Mill Studios,  in Philadelphia’s Manayunk section.

Enjoy!

Kate & Dave

 

 

Happy Holidays….We’ll See You Soon!

Merry Christmas,  Hanukkah,  Kwanzaa,  and/or New Year’s to all — and welcome to everyone who recently subscribed to our blog.

SO,  HEY – WHERE  DID  WE  GO?

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After batting out a record number of blog posts and photos during our pre-election window campaign,  we decided to take a holiday break to drag out the old Christmas tree,  whip up a spectacular Christmas feast (okay,  so we actually ordered it pre-cooked from Wegman’s – we know our limits!),  and play in our art studio.

DON’T  MISS THOSE  HOLIDAY  LIGHTS

We’ll be back in late January,  but don’t miss South Philadelphia’s great holiday light shows if you haven’t toured them already — next week’s weather will be perfect for strolling…

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Flip the Script (Part 4): Beat the Election Blues, Dumpster Diver Style

Over the past several posts, we’ve told you about our new South Philadelphia window display,  a do-it-yourself remedy for the pre-election blues….

16_10_21-1-vote-tasker-side-dc_8280Twenty-eight smiling artists light up our windows at E. Passyunk & Tasker to remind you that the apocalypse isn’t quite here yet.

And,  yes,  regular readers of our  Unexpected Philadelphia  blog and website might recognize a few familiar faces…..

16_10_28-3-window-dumpster-diversSay, haven’t I wandered through your living room?

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Election Year Blues: Help Us Flip the Script!

This year,  we struggled with finding a new topic for our annual holiday window display.

We’d already displayed photos of our South Philadelphia neighbors and of local celebrities from the 1960s….

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What was left?   South Philadelphia restaurant owners?    Current local celebrities?    Favorite Philly athletes?   (Way too controversial!)

But one topic kept intruding in our heads.

ELECTION  STRESS  DISORDER

Like many people,  we’ve been beaten down by the soul-draining divisiveness in the country this year.

Violence.    Name-calling.   Corruption.   Terrorism.   Racial and religious divides.   Following the news – particularly the election news – you’d think that the country and the entire human race were sliding down that greased pole to hell.

16_10_02-2-kate-newspapers-dc_8245“Uhm,  Dave,  do you have the comics?”

 And,  yes,  it even has a name:   Election Stress Disorder,  and everyone we knew had symptoms.

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It’s Dumpster Diver House Tour Time: Meet Susan & Patrick Moloney

A major perk of belonging to the Philadelphia Dumpster Divers – that merry band of artists who have played,  exhibited and produced witty,  found-object art together since 1992 – is that we get to hang out in the area’s most creative homes.

Today our  Unexpected Philadelphia  website takes you on another Dumpster Diver photo tour – this time to the inspiring home, studio, and garden of Susan and Patrick Moloney.

16_08_15 1 Susan & Patrick Moloney DC_3787Patrick and Susan Moloney with one of their ever-ready coffee makers

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Live from the Magic Gardens: Linda Lou Horn’s Cast of Curiosities

Linda Lou Horn always dreamed of becoming an artist.

So when the long-time nurse,  elder care activist,  and gestalt psychotherapist decided to radically change up her life at age 50,  she marked the occasion with a two-mile free fall from an airplane.

16_07_08 1 Linda Lou Horn DC_5561Linda Lou with “Going Nowhere Fast” in her polka-dotted dining room.

 Now the much-exhibited, found-object artist – whose art-and-imagination-filled home we profiled last summer – has landed in a one-woman show at Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens through August 28. Continue reading