Scenes from last night’s Salon at the Gershman Y:
Photos by Taruja Deshmukh
Wings by Matthew Borgen
What a stellar cast last night for the August Salon at the Gershman Y!
Eric Okdeh, of Philly’s Mural Arts Program, led off with an inspiring account of the creation of his most recent mural at 41st and Market on the Elwyn building. The piece is quite extraordinary in its brilliant colors, owing in no small part to the liberal use of stained glass arranged in mosaic patterns. And no less extraordinary was Okdeh’s feat in organizing legions of volunteers to painstakingly create large swaths of the design. Artists often strive to give form to an “uncompromising vision,” but it’s fascinating to see collaborative artists like Okdeh (and, in June, Don Gensler) for whom artistic “vision” inherently demands compromise. Eric Okdeh’s site is here.
Matthew Borgen’s life-sized angel wings, part of his Wing Rack installation, added a whimsical touch to an occasionally painful memoir of the last ten years charting his emergence as an artist and struggle for success. Working backward from the first installation of the piece in a gallery in Florida, Borgen sifted through his journals, sketches and recollections to find the narrative strands that led to the actual development of the work. Though treading into occasionally arcane art-historical and philosophical territory, Borgen made a convincing case for the multi-layered accessibility of his work, borne out when, at intermission, audience members (myself included) gleefully hoisted pairs of the wings onto our own backs and made like angels. It was, for a moment at least, not unlike what heaven must be for artists.
Andrew David Watson–who you may also remember from the October Salon–took the stage after intermission to share two lovely short documentary paeans to the bicycle. Both were shot using a still camera and a cheap audio recording. The first, produced during his brief stint at Fabrica, looked at the small Italian town of Treviso from the seat of a bicycle. The second followed a local cyclist, nicknamed the “Broad Street Bully,” who has turned riding his bicycle into a full-time retirement plan. Both pieces were a testament to the power of inexpensive and simple tools in telling great stories. Watson is now following the Obama campaign for IFC as well as pursuing numerous independent projects. His camera work can be seen at the First Person Festival screening of Joshua Camerote’s Swallow Your Pride, a documentary about Philadelphia’s Wing Bowl. (Details announced soon!) See more of what he’s up to here.
Finally, Juliet Wayne took her success as the winner of last year’s Grand Slam to the next level with a rollicking longer-form story about a bus trip that turned into an acid trip and led, finally, to a trip to a clinic. The universe Wayne evokes in her storytelling, so true and at the same time so truly warped, is populated with characters with names like Taw-Taw (an opportunist in all media), conspiratorial nurses, back-stabbing best friends, naive young teachers on vacation, and ex-boyfriends with misplaced entrepreneurial impulses. It’s an entertaining world, filtered through Wayne’s hilarious and, ultimately, despite her protests to the contrary, optimistic, hindsight. If you haven’t seen her work one way or another, you can certainly get a flavor at her blog. Highly recommended!