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

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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

 

 

Ready to Reboot Your Creative Life? Check out ACN!

When we moved to South Philly in 2011,  we were lucky to stumble across two groups that provided us with both art inspiration and a wonderful circle of friends.

The first,  as you’ve probably guessed,  was the Philadelphia Dumpster Divers,  that inspired group of found-object artists whose homes and studios we profile on our Unexpected Philadelphia website.   (And,  yes,  there are more Diver home tours coming,  including — when we finally get around to it — our own.)

17_02_15-1-tracy-takes-another-chance“Tracy Takes Another Chance on Love” –  Kate’s found-object commentary on the pre-Dave dating scene.  Hmm — Should I take the “not quite divorced” guy for 50 points,  my cousin’s ex-fiance for a family-wrecking 30 points,  or “Mr. 93%-Right” for 100 points?

Philadelphia mosaic artist Isaiah Zagar introduced us to the free-spirited Dumpster Divers,  but his sister — dancer and choreographer Sheila Zagar — introduced Kate to its complementary and indispensable opposite:  the Artist Conference Network.

17_02_15-1b-kate-mellina-maryellen-plansKate’s “Maryellen Plans Her Day” because sometimes you just need to shake things up a little…

ARTIST  CONFERENCE  WHAT??

Founded in California in 1983 by painter and art professor  Beverly Cassell,  the Artist Conference Network (ACN) is the somewhat unpoetic name for a nationwide coalition of artists,  performers and writers who meet in local groups to set personal creative goals and encourage each other in their work.

17_02_15-2-lynn-denton-schell-st-cosmosPhiladelphia filmmaker,  painter,  mosaic artist,  sculptor and writer Lynn Denton with her “Schell Street Cosmos” mosaic.   Lynn founded Philly’s ACN chapter in 1994.

17_02_15-3b-lynn-dentonTwo more examples of Lynn’s prolific output:  “Throne Rug Study”,  a 2016 canvas,  and a still from “Clair-Obscur: A Film Performance” at the 2000 Philadelphia Festival of World Cinema.

DEFINING  YOUR  DREAMS

ACN members set annual and quarterly creative goals,  and coach with a fellow member by phone each week to review progress,  identify obstacles and breakthroughs,  and set goals for the coming week.

We also hold meetings every other Thursday in members’ homes to share work in a non-competitive,  non-judgmental atmosphere that recognizes each member as the sole authority on their creative journey.

17_02_15-4-chris-sheerinTwo recent works by ACN member Chris Sheerin,  a graduate of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and the Philadelphia High School for Creative and Performing Arts.

ABOUT  OUR  MEMBERS

Our Philadelphia group annually accepts between 12 and 15 members,  who commit themselves for a year each March.   Recent members have included painters,  photographers,   writers,  bloggers,  poets,  a singer and song-writer,  a dancer,  a filmmaker and sculptor,  a fiber and indigo dye artist,  a collage artist,  and a found-object and bead jewelry artist.

Some,  like Lynn Denton and Chris Sheerin above,  have formal art training.   Others,  like Kate,  are self-taught or hone their skills through workshops.

All of us are committed to helping ourselves — and our fellow members — expand our creative potential.

17_02_15 5 Rebekah Higgins.jpg“DNA” (graphite on paper) and “Portals” (oil on canvas) by mixed-media visionary artist,  art and design professor,  and ACN member Rebekah Higgins.

I  WILL  SURVIVE  THRIVE

Members are encouraged to set measurable goals that will really stretch them,  but have no fear:  The group will applaud your efforts whether you reach your goals or not — or whether you decide to pursue a completely different and better dream mid-year.

Kate’s ACN goals have motivated her (and Dave, her non-ACN co-conspirator) to establish our Unexpected Philadelphia website,  design a Fringe Festival performance,  create our holiday window and “flip the script” voting projects,  update the outside of our house with quotes and painted blocks,  and even lose 10 pounds.  (And,  yes,  that last goal was definitely Kate’s — our guy Dave barely casts a shadow.)

17_02_15-6-blaine-bonhamA photographer,  travel blogger,  and former executive vice president of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society,  Blaine Bonham captures the essence of people,  urban and natural landscapes —  and his own back yard.

WANT TO LEARN  MORE?

Interested in exploring whether ACN can help you kick-start your creative goals?

Call Blaine Bonham at 215-280-4651.  Blaine can also tell you about our Thursday,  March 2 meeting,  where you can join us as we share work and celebrate the completion of our winter goals.

Hope to see you there!

Kate

 

 

The Great Photo Album Adventure (Part 13): Who Are We?

If you’ve followed the story on our blog,  you know that a friend gave us a fabulous housewarming gift:  a 12-pound photo album from the 1960s,  packed with images from nightspots in and around South Philadelphia.

You also know that we’ve been on a grand hunt to identify the hundreds of entertainers,  sports figures,  business people,  politicians and  “just plain folks” cavorting on its pages, with the goal of donating them to Temple University’s Urban Archives for safe-keeping.

WHO  ARE  THEY?

The photos were collected by South Philadelphia newspaper columnist Arthur Tavani, and many are already on our website,  along with whatever identifications we have.  

In September,  2015,  we added our  first section of “Who Are We?” photos,  asking for help in identifying the many unknown women in them.   Today,  we published 27 new photos on our website,  all showing at least one person we can’t identify.

Some photos include famous Philadelphians….

17_02_02-1-197-waw2-al-martinoYes,  that’s South Philadelphia singer Al Martino second from right,  with columnist Art Tavani (far left) and Philadelphia council president Paul D’Ortona (far right).   But who’s the man with the flower in his lapel?

 Some just look famous….

17_02_02-2-055-waw2In our wild imaginations,  they’re a singer (left) and comedian (right),  but we honestly can’t identify either of the men surrounding Art Tavani.

Some were probably hoping to become famous….

17_02_02-3-022-waw2The suits and hair scream John,  Paul,  George & Ringo in 1964.   Who are they?

 Others are associated with local law enforcement and the church…

17_02_02-4-047-waw2That’s Art Tavani at the far right,  and the flyer unhelpfully says, “Hand in hand,  you and the law!”,  but that’s all we know.

 …or with business and government…

17_02_02-5-075-waw2Columbus Day,  circa 1966 at Palumbo’s in South Philly.   We spotted Art Tavani  (back left)  and Dr. Antonio Carloni,  Italy’s Consul General  (third from left in front),  but who are the other local trophy holders?

 CAN  YOU  HELP?

So check out the mystery people in our new website section,  and ask your friends and family to take a look.

Once there,  you can click on any thumbnail photo to scroll through much larger versions of all the photos.   You will also see a caption under each photo if you are on a non-mobile device like a laptop or PC.

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SEND  US  AN  EMAIL

Find someone you know,  or recognize a venue we haven’t identified?    Send us an email!   We’d love to hear your story.

Enjoy!

Kate & Dave

The Women’s March on Philadelphia…and the World

2016 was definitely not our favorite year.

We cleaned out and sold Kate’s parents’ home.   We learned more than we ever cared to about hospitals,  insurance,  Medicaid applications and nursing homes.

AND  THEN  THERE  WAS….

….that endless election campaign.   Not even the fun of our non-partisan “Flip the Script” photo project could wipe out the divisiveness of a candidate who relentlessly belittled women,  minorities,  the disabled,  the armed forces,  immigrants,  prisoners of war,  our allies,  the press – seemingly basic human kindness itself.

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Dave, are you SURE we don’t have another comics section…..?

And by the time it all ended – amid reams of vicious fake news and a winner who lost by almost 3 million votes – we needed an extra-long holiday break.

BACK TO THE 1960s

So when we heard about the January 21 Women’s March on Washington – which rapidly morphed into almost 700 sister marches across all 50 states and every continent on earth – we quickly decided we were in – even if Kate  (perhaps fortunately)  had never learned to knit.

17_01_23-10-womens-march-dc_6845No badly knitted-by-her pink hat,  but Kate tries on a sign.

MARCHING  IN  THE  STREETS

So here’s our look at Saturday’s march on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway:   The sky was foggy,  but the vibe  (and,  happily,  the temperature)  was warm and upbeat,  and just what the doctor ordered….

17_01_23-20-womens-march-dc_6876On the march:  Part of the Philly crowd preparing to head from Logan Square to Eakins Oval.

SHOW  ME  A  SIGN

And,  yes,  we saw hundreds (and hundreds) of signs – from angry,  to heartfelt,  to pure thought-provoking fun….

17_01_23-90-womens-march-cm_6765

17_01_23-120-women-march-cm_6781

17_01_23-130-womens-march-cm_7001

17_01_23-125-womens-march-cm_6790Probably a smart idea…..!

THE  VIEW  NEAR THE EAKINS  OVAL  STAGE….

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17_01_23-480-womens-march-cm_2

17_01_23-390-womens-march-dc_6893

17_01_23-377-womens-march-cm_2

17_01_23-979-womens-march-cm_2A few more reasons to love our Philly guys!

…AND  FROM  THE  ART  MUSEUM  STEPS

2017 Philadelphia Women's MarchEven on a foggy day, you could see marchers and signs forever….

17_01_23-890-womens-march-cm_6958

17_01_23-900-womens-march-cm_6968

And,  yes,  this is definitely one “Nasty Woman” we’d want on our team…

HEADING  HOME – BUT  NOT  BACKWARDS

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17_01_23 510 Women's March CM_2.jpg

A parting tribute by the Franklin Institute….

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WHAT  THE  WORLD  NEEDS  NOW

Uplifting?  Yes.  Energizing?  Definitely.   But neither of us was prepared for what we saw online when we arrived home:  Hundreds of thousands of women,  men and children, packing streets and holding signs in nations across the globe:

Pictures from Women’s Marches on Every Continent – The New York Times

And,  while we don’t know how long the New York Times will keep this remarkable collection of photos up on their website,  we hope you’ll take several minutes to see what a mutually supportive human race could look like – and to share that link with your friends.

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XOXOX – 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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Our Lucky 13th Dumpster Diver House Tour: Carol & Elliot Cole

What happens when a longtime potter with a background in teaching and television takes a papermaking class?

If it’s Philadelphia area artist Carol Cole – with a love of multicultural art and a penchant for found objects – the results probably won’t fit in your stationery drawer….

16_09_16-1-carol-cole-dc_6024Carol’s  “Turn of the Century: 500 Familiar Objects from 1999”  is made of paper pulp imbedded with – yes – 500 real objects ranging from a wristwatch to a wrench.   This outdoor version is cast in fiberglass.

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