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  • The Red Bridge, Fred Wagner, Sewell EBiggs Museum of American Art

    Fred Wagner, The Red Bridge

    It’s always such a cool feeling to see a Fred Wagner painting in a regional museum like the Sewell E. Biggs Museum of American Art in Dover, Delaware. It’s weird, it’s like he’s a pal to me. He hung out on Camac Street in Philly at the Philadelphia Sketch Club, studied at and later taught anatomy at Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, hung out with Thomas Eakins, hung out at the Philadelphia Art Alliance, and he summered at the Jersey shore. Yo! Fred! How you doin’ ?

    The Red Bridge is, according to 150 years of Philadelphia painters and paintings: Selections from the Sewell C. Biggs Museum of American Art, the South Street Bridge! My hood! Fred Wagner titled the painting after an art show held at the Academy (PAFA) in 1940 but started the large canvas in 1910. The original bridge was built in the 1870s and rebuilt in 1923, it’s not known why it took so long for Wagner to finish the painting.

    I can picture him on the banks of the Schuylkill River, a plein air painter capturing the built landscape on a big canvas on his French easel, then trekking back to the studio with the gear on his back like the Barbizon painters in the French forest instead a détournement of South Philly. If he were alive today we’d be friends on FaceBook, at least.

    Like many of America’s great painters, Fred was an illustrator, a big business in Philadelphia, before photography disrupted the press, which explains the symbols and semiotics of his work; a strong narrative with appealing design that spreads memes through slightly strange structural color choices, intentional distortions, and bouncy contrasts. The moody soft greens over burnt sienna of The Red Bridge, is economic and expressive, the charcoal-ish icy deep blues contrast against shivering grays and off white explaining the atmospherics in complete sentences written in line, light, color, and space.

    There is something in Wagner’s color language and composition structures that feels eloquently studied, information rich, a dialog with shapes that are descriptive, narrating a particular time and place, elements that are really easy to read, intellectually stealthy in his palette, and now, a wise voice from the past that speaks loudly in modern time, the artists far distant future.

    The balance of deliberate narrative with alluring color chords, arresting structural color, and murky atmospheric light, with yellow haze of the early Industrial age, is expressed in the immediacy of oil paint on canvas. I’ve realized that his visual vocabulary is so eloquent and clear to me because he was describing the uniqueness of the visual language of the Philadelphia landscape.

    Fred Wagner painted all his life, and although only making a modest living as an artist, his work was entered and accepted into some of the most prestigious art exhibitions of the time. He won many awards for his work and his paintings were (or are) in numerous museums including the Philadelphia Museum of ArtReading MuseumWoodmere Art MuseumJames A. Michener Art MuseumSt Louis Art MuseumSewell E. Biggs Museum of American ArtFarnsworth Art Museum and Penn State University Museum.[11] – Wikipedia

    The Philadelphia Sketch Club, established 1860, is still going strong, I go there almost every week to draw models in the studio. Fred Wagner is listed on the historical marker in front of the club, the oldest artist run art studio and gallery in America, as an important American artist.

    Seeing his work in Dover at the Biggs was a real mood boost, like a deep conversation about art with a reliable old friend and mentor. The early industrial landscape depicted in the painting is now an intellectual hub of hospitals and universities, with space age modern architecture on the West bank, and a people friendly Schuylkill River Trail that goes all the way to Valley Forge by bike, and some of the most desirable living in the city, where Fred Wagner composed his painting, The Red Bridge, on the east side on the river.

    The influences of Fred Wagner are still strong at PAFA, painting is core. At the Philadelphia Sketch Club, the 11th Annual Phillustration exhibited contemporary illustrations from a still vibrant and relevant artist community of illustrators in Philly. If you see Fred at a Philadelphia regional museum say, “Yo!”

    Williams A. Gee, Grays Ferry Bridge over Schuylkill River / Newkirk Viaduct, 8/29/1932
    DOR Archives, City of Philadelphia

    Thanks for writing about my great grand-uncle?Fred Wagner. As you know, my sister?Cyndy Drue?and I authored a book about Fred that your readers can order from xLibris called Fred Wagner, An American Painter, 1860-1940.”

    Susan Smith

    Read more about Fred Wagner, DoN‘s review of Impressionism to Modernism: The Lenfest Collection of American Art, Michener Art Museum on DoNArTNeWs

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    Dough with encapsulations, by Orkan Telhan. The artist and biological designer will discuss roles for microorganisms on February 19, 2020. Image courtesy of the artist.

    Art Food, Designs for Different Futures, Philadelphia Museum of Art

    Orkan Telhan is an interdisciplinary artist, designer and researcher whose investigations focus on the design of interrogative objects, interfaces, and media, engaging with critical issues in social, cultural, and environmental responsibility.

    Food as a subject of art is natural in a museum, Designs for Different Futures cooks up a feast of information and imagination with an entire section of the exhibition devoted to future foods. Orkan Telhan’s artworks are arrayed around a large round, white dining table with stations for disparate food designs for Breakfast Before Extinction: Better Salmon, 2019, Last Bananas, 2019, Human Made Vanillas, 2019, Simit Diet & B | reactor, 2019 (Designed with Biorealize), Pancake Bot, 2019, Ourochef Steak, 2019, Dough with encapsulations.

    Breakfast Before Extinction
    A series of mediations on the future of the human diet. From steaks made of human cells to extinct bananas and genetically-modified fish, this table stages a number of scenarios where our relationship with food is interrogated.

    Breakfast Before Extinction

    As an interrogative object, Dough with Encapsulations questions the authenticity of the object, which seems quite real, communicating with the semiotics of the imagery of food, the artist stimulates the senses with coded traditional art concepts like color, light, line and space, signaling the object belongs in a museum exhibition, while simultaneously sparking the yuck or yum response to a dough that could be sweet or meat, the decoration cherry gummies or blood capsules. The ambiguity of the object between sculptural and conceptual, useful and dreadful, pretty and creepy is a menu of contemporary art themes.

    Semiotics is the study of sign process, which is any form of activity, conduct, or any process that involves signs, including the production of meaning. A sign is anything that communicates a meaning, that is not the sign itself, to the interpreter of the sign. Wikipedia

    Dough with Encapsulations projects layers of meaning onto a pink blob adorned with red gel caps, the color combo vibrates in the high key, unctuous and in bad taste yet campy and fun, the form displays action, the idea of yeast, a life form, activating and changing the chemistry of the ingredients, the cook kneading and adding the ingredient of time and duration, the context of the exhibition space resonates on the wavelength between dystopian and utopian, it could be a recipe for disaster or a cook book for survival.

    Even though the dough presents as a Useful Art object it is a critique on the institution of food production, failure of industrial leadership, the glamorization and commodification of food, while spotlighting those who are undermining the authenticity of food in the real world. The mad scientist is glamorized, feminized and made Instagram-able through being socially engaged with the concept of solving world hunger. That’s a lot of information to transmit.

    “Give me yesterday’s Bread, this Day’s Flesh, and last Year’s Cider.” – Benjamin Franklin

    The object functions on multiple levels of intellect and social signification; gender stereotypes are melted into the color, the bulbous shape mammalian, the urgency of passing time and following instructions is baked in to the cake. The male gaze with demands, commands, and needs are fulfilled with reassuring information embedded in the color and form; is the form feminine?

    The use of food as source material for social commentary and engagement is contemporary in that the subject is relatable to everybody thereby ripe for commentary and critique on gender roles in a patriarchal society. This form of socially engaged art has been brought forward into the future and will continue to create memes, make things better for everybody, and create a dish of languages mixed without words.

    Semiotics of the Kitchen is a feminist parody single-channel video and performance piece released in 1975 by Martha Rosler. The video, which runs six minutes, is considered a critique of the commodified versions of traditional women’s roles in modern society. Wikipedia

    Martha Rosler, Semiotics of the Kitchen, 1975

    Designs for Different Futures

    Philadelphia Museum of Art: October 22, 2019–March 8, 2020

    Walker Art Center: September 12, 2020–January 3, 2021

    Art Institute of Chicago: February 6 –May 16, 2021

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    Design for Different Futures

    Now, by Ryan Strand Greenberg. The photographer and curator will engage the public in conversation about the history we pass on to the future on January 22, 2020. Image courtesy of the artist.

    Designs for Different Futures, Philadelphia Museum of Art

    “Well, I feel that we should always put a little art into what we do. It’s better that way.”
    ―?Jules Verne, From the Earth to the Moon (De la terre à la lune),?an 1865 novel.

    From the Earth to the Moon tells the story of the Baltimore Gun Club, a post-American Civil War?society of weapons enthusiasts, and their attempts to build an enormous?Columbiad?space gun?and launch three people—the Gun Club’s president, his Philadelphian armor-making rival, and a French poet—in a projectile with the goal of a?Moon landing. Five years later, Verne wrote a sequel called?Around the Moon.” – Wikipedia

    I remember well receiving?From the Earth to the Moon from my Aunt Fran for my 12th birthday, the book has three novels about the future that shaped my vision and expectations of science fiction. The novel begins shortly after the civil war with a story of transforming the technology of war into that of exploration and innovation and the concept of a ‘space ship’ is invented. The ideas posited in the book are still very relevant today, reality is stranger than fiction, though, and I’m pretty sure Verne would have thought we’d have colonized the Moon by now.

    During the 1860s, the French Salon jury routinely rejected about half of the works submitted, Emperor Napoleon III saw the rejected works of 1863, he decreed that the public be allowed to judge the work themselves, and the?Salon des Refusés?(Salon of the Refused) was organized, on April 25, 1874 with the title?The Exhibition of the Impressionists,?held in the salon of the photographer Nadar and organized by the Société anonyme des peintres, sculpteurs et graveurs (Anonymous society of painters, sculptors and engravers), composed of Pissarro, Monet, Sisley, Degas, Renoir, Cézanne, Guillaumin and Berthe Morisot.

    The?1860s?was the ten-year period from the years?1860?to?1869.

    The?abolition?of?Slavery in the United States?led to the breakdown of the?Atlantic slave trade, which was already suffering from the abolition of slavery in most of?Europe?in the late?1820s?and?1830s. In the United States,?civil war?between the?Confederate States of America?and the?Union states?led to massive deaths and the destruction of cities such as?Chambersburg, Pennsylvania;?Richmond, Virginia; and?Atlanta, Georgia.?Sherman’s March to the Sea?was one of the first times America experienced?total war, and advancements in military technology, such as?iron?and?steel?warships, and the development and initial deployment of early?machine guns?added to the destruction. After the American Civil War, turmoil continued in the?Reconstruction era, with the rise of?white supremacist?organizations like the?Ku Klux Klan?and the issue of granting?Civil Rights?to?Freedmen. – Wikipedia

    I cribbed that whole paragraph from Wikipedia (I left all the links in tact), its time trippy that all of the topics are still relevant today, far in the distant future. Its no wonder Jules Verne wanted to blast off into space and the Impressionists were anxious to leave the past behind. On entering the show a sign asks us to close our eyes and envision the future, in Designs for Different Futures there is no escape from our earthly bounds but plenty of solutions to imminent future disasters. Similar to the popular?The Impressionist’s Eye show which was divided into themes around urban life?Nature, The Modern City, Everyday Objects (or still life), People, and Bathers,?Designs for Different Futures?investigates 11 thematic sections:?Resources,?Generations,?Earths, Bodies, Intimacies, Food, Jobs, Cities, Power, Materials and Data.

    My concept of the future was invented in an 1865 novel with steam punk technology and adventurism but this exhibit has more of a Philip K. Dick vibe, an American writer who died in 1982, his work explored philosophical, social, and political themes, with stories dominated by monopolistic corporations,?alternative universes,?authoritarian?governments, and?altered states of consciousness, there’s a video clip from Blade Runner 2049 that blips on the wall signaling his contribution to our concept of the future. I fell in love with Sci Fi with Jules Verne but PKD upended my world view with his predictive gritty awful realism of technology that invades our space instead of enhancing it and making things better. Entering the Designs for Different Futures exhibit is a bit like crossing the brane barrier between multiverses, a distinct tingle of?déjà vu, with that feeling of time travel realness, and the notion that maybe things will be OK, after all.

    Science fiction is not just space opera books, it’s art, television, films, games, theater, and other media that inspire an aspirational speculation of tomorrow’s technology and livability. In the ‘future history’ of art this collection of objects will be a touchstone of speculative futurism, an investigative art show in a museum space envisioning the future through science, technology, craft, and art. The first impressionism show was held in a photographer’s studio, a photographer who was an early hot air balloon explorer, the link between impressionism and the acceptance of functional distortion in painting and technology like photography opened a portal to new thinking about the ways things look in real life. The news about the future is often bleak, dystopia is a vision that is scary and an easy sell, but?Designs for Different Futures?is an installation of art and technology exploring the hopefulness data point in the Venn diagram overlapping past futures, present futures and future futures.

     

    Designs for Different Futures

    Philadelphia Museum of Art: October 22, 2019–March 8, 2020

    Walker Art Center: September 12, 2020–January 3, 2021

    Art Institute of Chicago: February 6 –May 16, 2021

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    Impressionism, Michener Art Museum

    Edward W. Redfield (1869-1965),?The Upper Delaware, c. 1918. Oil on canvas. 38 x 50 inches. Gift of Marguerite and Gerry Lenfest.

    Impressionism to Modernism: The Lenfest Collection of American Art, Michener Art Museum

    Road Trip! The?James A. Michener Art Museum in Doylestown invited DoNArTNeWs to preview?Impressionism to Modernism: The Lenfest Collection of American Art, an exquisite collection of paintings by Bucks County regional artists collected by Gerry Lenfest and donated to the museum as a core collection, 59 impressionist landscapes, followed by 50ish modernist paintings securing the institutions role as a cultural hotspot in the American art scene for generations. The collection is inspired, the focus on regional art and the response by American artists to new ideas about painting, how to see, the influence of artist collectives and groups, schools of thought about color and optics, and the sheer mastery of the medium of painting as the pinnacle of fine art is lucid, refined, and clear in its mission.

    “Glorious examples by such luminaries as Walter Emerson Baum, Fern Coppedge, John Fulton Folinsbee, Daniel Garber, William Lathrop, Edward Redfield, George Sotter, Robert Spencer, and Walter Elmer Schofield illustrate the profound importance of art produced in this region. In 2010, the Lenfests gave another major collection of Modernist works by Charles Frederick Ramsey, Louis Stone, Charles Evans, Lloyd Ney, and Charles Rosen, and others, expanding the Museum’s ability to tell the rich story of American art and securely placing the Museum in the pantheon of significant American museums.” – Michener Art Museum

    Art and friendship go a long way, I invited artist?Robert Bohné to join me and thankfully he drove Laura Storck, photographer, scientist, rock star, media influencer, and I to view the collection. Bob knows a lot more about these artists than I do and his insight into Bucks County artists and galleries is deep and connected. We are also painting buddies, meeting up each week at a Philadelphia area spot to paint plein air landscapes, we’ve been steady at it for more than five years now and a core group of painters has formed a bond, a commitment to painting.

    “I’ve recently had the pleasure of being a guest of DoNArTNeWs for a preview of the Michener Art Museums upcoming show, Impressionism to Modernism: the Lenfest Collection of American Art. If you’re a fan of the Pennsylvania Impressionists, you’re going to love this exhibit. If you’re a landscape painter, you’re going to love it even more. The show consists of approximately 100 paintings and one piece of sculpture by over 30 artists, displayed in chronological order. The paintings are carefully spaced and perfectly lit in a comfortable setting, and the quality of the Lenfest collection is exceptional, to the point that fans of American Art will recognize many of these paintings.

    Kudos to Curator of American Art, Laura Turner Igoe for doing an exceptional job. Regional landscape painters will have an opportunity to view a large segment of their lineage, and the size of the show makes it easy to compare works, all within a few simple steps. In additional to “Impressionism to Modernism”, the Michener has a wonderful selection of their permanent collection on display, along with an exhibit of watercolors and drawings by Harry Leith-Ross and sculpture by Raymond Granville Barger.” –Robert Bohné

    Hands up! How many of you have ever joined an art group, club, alliance…? Me, too. Lots. And art classes. My post on FaceBook:

    The chronological, clockwise exhibition?circles the square space with an undulating path of Bucks County regional masterworks, there are lots of surprises and juxtapositions that will stop you in your tracks. A painting by Henry B. Snell is at the end of the first stretch, dramatically different from the pastural landscapes, the viewer is placed in the middle of roaring rapids cascading down high ravine stone walls, mist rising, thick paint shiny and shadowy making waves.

    Then Bob points out that Snell In 1899 began teaching at the Philadelphia School of Design for Women, where he remained until 1943. He was an influential teacher, instructing several of the founding members of the Philadelphia Ten, also known as The Ten, a group of female artists from the United States who exhibited together from 1917 to 1945. The group exhibited annually in Philadelphia and later had traveling exhibitions at museums throughout the East Coast and the Midwest.

    The connection to The Plastic Club and?Moore College of Art & Design?and all my artist friends tugged my heartstrings so hard I started to cry, tears of joy, happiness, gratitude for the teachers of art who change lives, culture and history. – DoNArTNeWs

    Not kidding, full on tears, I get invited to the Moore Senior Show every year, I’m so honored, and I’m a member of the Plastic Club, a formerly all women’s artist club founded 1897, overlapping the timespan of the beginning of the exhibit through the mid 20th century, I draw and exhibit there all the time, my emotional reaction is authentic. Bob and I have been talking about the show all week, too, conversations about the links we have to the past through our art club connections. For example, The Philadelphia Sketch Club owns a Fred Wagner painting, I get to see it often, it was recently included in an exhibition of Philadelphia regional landscape artists at the Woodmere Museum of Art, seeing his paintings in the Michener Art Museum felt like visiting an old friend, a teacher passing down formulas and secrets, leading by example with thrilling composition, expressive color, and dynamic application of paint.

    There is a Fred Wagner painting of a rail yard with billowing smoke belching from the engine stacks of rumbling trains along tracks, the elevation is high, looking down the scene of the early industrial built landscape, it reminded me of Claude Monet,?The Gare Saint-Lazare (or Interior View of the Gare Saint-Lazare, the Auteuil Line), 1877. Wagner’s painting captures an American landscape in the jagged strokes of murky smoke, the color is acrid and gray, the circumambience choking, the rush of progress corrosive and dismal compared to the French view.

    I wondered aloud about the connection and?Laura Turner Igoe agreed about the influence of the Impressionists on Philadelphia painters. The exhibition is so well thought out they anticipated my question and had already planned?The Lure of Paris: French Influences on Pennsylvania Impressionism,?December 3rd,1:00 pm – 2:00 pm with Therese Dolan, Professor Emerita, Temple University.

    $10 member | $20 non-member | $5 student
    Price includes Museum admission.

    1886 marked the last Impressionist group exhibition in Paris but saw the launching of the movement in America when the art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel exhibited nearly three hundred Impressionist works in New York City. The show had a lasting impact on the artists and art market in America. The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Art’s faculty during the 1890s featured European-trained artists such as William Merritt Chase, Cecelia Beaux, and Robert Vonnoh and the Academy in Philadelphia became a leading hub of American Impressionism. Students at the Academy continued to migrate to Paris to study with French masters, visit the museums, experience the Salon, and attempt to get their work exhibited and sold. This talk will focus on the art of Edward Redfield, Walter Elmer Schofield, and Daniel Garber, all of whom studied at the Pennsylvania Academy and became known as the Pennsylvania Impressionists.

    Impressionism, Michener Art Museum, Fred Wagner

    Fred Wagner,?Canal at Lumberville,?oil on canvas, 35″x 43″, in trust to the James A. Michener Art Museum from Marguerite and Gerry Lenfest

    The ambience of the exhibition is not at all daunting with a logic and clarity that is intellectually satisfying and aesthetically stimulating, the lighting is perfect allowing the eye to rest on the color palettes of each painting comfortably, a wonderfully neutral deep green with a hint of viridian (it’s not impressionist without viridian) covers the walls in a modern color that I predict will have influence on interior design. When you enter the doors you are confronted with the beginning and the end of the collection, about 100 artworks, turn right and there are bold abstracts, turn left for impressionist landscapes, this simple logic allowed the curator to focus on layout of the artwork which is as precise as the hands on a clock, yet fluid and flexible in it’s hub and spoke arrangement.

    I thought it was as close to perfect as you could get.?But I’m biased. I loved the art. – Robert Bohné

    Me, too.

    Impressionism to Modernism: The Lenfest Collection of American Art,?Curated by Laura Turner Igoe, Ph.D., Curator of American Art, through March 1, 2020

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    Brick by Brick Poster, Off the Wall Gallery at Dirty Franks

    Click the poster for large image.

    Brick by Brick, LGBTQIA+ Artists Celebrate Stonewall at 50, Off the Wall Gallery at Dirty Franks

    My painting’s on the poster! Full disclosure, I sat on the jury, too! Participating artists sitting on the jury leave the room, the remaining four jurors make selections with Togo being the tie-breaker. I had already submitted entries for the show before I was asked to help edit the show, as did two other jurors, it feels satisfying to having my paintings be selected by my peers. The panel was four jurors with Jody and Togo breaking ties, we looked at artwork for hours, listened to readings of artist statements, re-looked at all entries, then edited down to as many pieces as we could possibly fit, the submissions were heartfelt and amazing, we had a lot of debate. I felt a special honor to participate with the panel on curating a significant representation of high esthetic quality of Philadelphia artists and sensitivity to the theme, a celebration of 50 years since the Stonewall Riot in NYC, the beginning of gay pride, I was 16 then, now I’m a gay elder.

    I submitted a group of plein air paintings from camping trips to gay campgrounds in PA and Florida, the jury liked ones I did at The Woods Campground in Lehighton, PA. For the past many Summers I have set up camp with my easel always at the ready under a screen tent, I’ll often paint all day, the environment is sexy and body positive, focus on fun, music, dance parties, bonfires, my paintings attract attention from friendly fellow campers. Making art, being in creative flow, communing with nature, being naked in the sun, mixing colors to match the sunset fills my being with strength and pride. Gay campgrounds are an oasis of self-expression and freedom, primitiveness and acceptance of the queer identity, unity and acceptance of diversity.

    Brick by Brick, LGBTQIA+ Artists Celebrate Stonewall at 50, Off the Wall Gallery at Dirty Franks, 13th and Pine Streets, Philadelphia.

    Opening Reception and Awards: June 2nd, 4:00 – 7:00

    DoN Brewer, Brick by Brick, Off the Wall Gallery at Dirty Franks

    Flags, The Woods Campground, oil on canvas, 8″ square, 2018, DoN Brewer

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    Anxiety

    May 7, 2019

    Social Anxiety and Plein Air Painting by DoN Since 2014 I have been meeting up with a diverse group of painters coordinated by Robert Bohne, Philadelphia Landscape Painting Meetup, with a focus on Philadelphia post industrial landscape and nature study. Weekly painting sessions with plein air painters, each with their particular easels, brushes and palettes […]

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    The Artist

    May 2, 2019

    Big Timber, oils, 2019,?Robert Bohné The Artist,?Robert Bohné Many people ask me when I started painting and I often wonder to myself, “When did you stop painting?” Bob?Bohné has essentially been an artist his whole life: studying, practicing, teaching, experimenting, drawing, painting, woodworking, making music, coaching, coaxing, and encouraging others to be artists, too. Like […]

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    Bathers

    April 14, 2019

    Pierre-Auguste Renoir, The Great Bathers, 1884 – 1887, oil on canvas, 46 3/8″ x 67 1/4″. The Mr. and Mrs. Carroll S. Tyson, Jr., Collection, 1963. Image courtesy of Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2019. The Great Bathers “For three years Renoir wrestled with this work,” notes Jennifer Thompson, the museum’s Gloria and Jack Drosdick Curator […]

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    Kimono

    March 16, 2019

    The Flowered Kimono, oil on canvas, 32”x 24”, Doris Peltzman The Flowered Kimono The Flowered Kimono is a painting that I’ve been thinking about for a few weeks; I first saw the painting during an afternoon? drawing workshop, paintings were arriving for the installation of the?Art of the Flower show, at The Philadelphia Sketch Club, […]

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    String

    March 6, 2019

    Nobody Gives A Shit, Caitlin McCormack, photo by?@thatchinesekid String Theory Caitlin McCormack at Paradigm Gallery + Studio See You All in There by DoN Cotton string is a common material found in most homes; string is a flexible structure made from fibers twisted from multiple strands which are then twisted together into a multi-functional tool. […]

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