By Ashley Hahn
Devoted Eyes on the Street readers know that I’ve been following along as artists Miriam Singer and Emilie Ledieu created Under the Clothespin, a cheery mosaic mashup of Philadelphia’s cityscape designed for Centre Square’s concourse.
Back in November, I wrote about the concept, public outreach, and design process for the new Mural Arts project commissioned by REIT Management to beautify the subterranean space. In February, we took a sneak peek behind the construction fence at the work in progress.
On Monday, the fence came down and Under the Clothespin met the public.
So today, as you descend the stairs at Claes Oldenburg’s Clothespin, look left and you’ll see the mosaic cityscape unfold along the once-blank concourse walls.
The artists and their assistants spent months cutting more than 10,000 pieces of glass, each destined for specific locations on the nearly 450 square foot mosaic (no filler here), and winter was spent setting sections on the walls.
“This mural is a slowed down glass collage of our changing city,” said Miriam Singer at the ribbon cutting Monday. She noted that the landscape surrounding City Hall had shifted several times since the design work began. Will Kensington’s Harbison Dairy milk bottle or the catenaries on the Reading Viaduct live forever? Maybe not, but there they are in glass.
Instead of simply treating Center City as a place to pass through, Ledieu and Singer looked closer and asked the public to do the same.
“I’ve always gotten lost in the architectural details… that was something I wanted to bring to the wall,” Emilie Ledieu explained.
Philadelphia is recognizable in Under the Clothespin, but it’s not an obvious read. The artwork can be enjoyed from afar, but rewards those who look up close. The more time I’ve spent with the design, the more I have discovered pieces of the artwork in the city and vice versa.
The artists began their design process by asking Philadelphians to describe why they go to our through Centre Square by drawing on postcards and maps. For the folks who shared their personal geographies there’s even more to discover. Singer and Ledieu silkscreened elements of the public’s drawings onto glass and used these pieces as texture within the design.
Perhaps no single person beyond the artists contributed more ideas than Jonathan Nitka. Nitka works for Abbot Downing, a wealth management division of Wells Fargo, upstairs in Centre Square and has a serious artistic streak. He submitted nearly 30 postcards of original drawings showing views from his commute from South Philly to Centre Square, and his work is well-represented on the wall. Nitka dropped by the ribbon cutting on Monday and told me that the project was a welcome outlet for his bottled-up creativity, and he was clearly pleased to see his art literally become part of the city.