Walking through the neighborhoods of essentially any of the larger-populated east-coast U.S. cities, one may notice how much real estate developers are altering these local neighborhoods. Over the past few years, I’ve traveled mostly between New York City and Upstate NY, from Connecticut through New Jersey into Philadelphia, PA, winding from Baltimore and Washington, D.C. down to Raleigh, North Carolina. Last month, I participated in a group show of small sculpture in the city where I was born, Philadelphia, exhibiting my Kells Widget piece. Frequent trips back and forth brought me into the Frankford Avenue arts corridor of the Fishtown and Kensington neighborhoods in Philadelphia. I couldn’t believe how much this displaced me from my early memories, since the first time I saw this neighborhood I was a young college student. The ordinary has become fancy, and in some cases, downright “glitzy” in its modernist-revival multi-tiered condos.
Continuing with ideas that I started in my recent metalwork, I captured in my travels and digitally manipulated a photo of a typically-historic city townhouse. This one was built likely in the Art Deco period. Its 1920s residential-style of architecture was popular to have the narrow, rectangular windows on the door and of course, flanked by a passively obtrusive gargoyle of a lion’s head on the center-left panel. Similar to how social media platforms (like Instagram) have avatars or profiles who call themselves “Blue Doors” or “Blue Houses” – I selected a rather ordinary-looking urban townhouse and placed it into the same type of photo filters that smart-phone related applications (“apps”) use to flaunt that currently popular blue door aesthetic.
The attractive fleur de lis chased pattern I created on the silver lid (exterior) fools one into thinking at first this is just another beautiful commemorative box, or a small vessel that holds jewels. However, opening up the flange lid from the body shows the viewer a random east-coast city townhouse, not “fancied up” like so many of the current-day houses and condos being built in these neighborhoods. One might experience a sense of shock or disappointment, seeing this mundane image inside of such an ornate sterling silver exterior. If I may extrapolate one thing, it’s hoping to recreate that same worry that I felt, upon seeing this myself: if builders and developers constantly re-gentrify historic city neighborhoods – what happens to the original residents? While there’s always an acceptable amount of change as generations pass and homes/businesses are sold to new buyers (or investors), to where do all these local folks move, who may not want to leave but cannot afford these changes, whether for better or worse? Questions to ponder and show how this can apply to nearly any urban area one may compare in his/her mind’s eye; or in my case, from own childhood memories to the present day. The image of a door often conjures up a sense of a new beginning: “What’s behind that door?” or “Will life change if I choose this vs. that?”