Tuesday, July 29, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Under I-95, Art For All One Last Time

It's the end for the House of Strauss. Sunday afternoon under I-95, across the street from the South Philadelphia Target, photographer Zoe Strauss held the 10th – and last – of her annual shows. I love Strauss’ work. There’s a Diane Arbus element to it – an attraction to humankind in various states of disrepair. Strauss, though, perhaps has a deeper love for her subjects than Arbus, a cheering-on quality that shines through. She’s not judging them or exploiting them; she’s giving them a chance to explain themselves, uncomfortable as some of the stories may be. But the thing about Strauss that was particularly striking Sunday – the thing I’m sorry to see go - was the unusual egalitarianism of these annual events. Encounters with art often means some distance – the price of admission, the sharp elbows of fellow art lovers – between you and the thing you came to see. But for free, you could walk an unexpected place and gaze at a couple of hundred photographs. For $5, you could walk away with a signed Strauss. Hugs and kisses from the photographer, no extra charge. That’s what hundreds did Sunday. The lines were long, but once you got up to Strauss’ table, she showered her unconditional exuberance upon you. The personality is part of the experience, no doubt. But there was a vibe to the entire experience that the art world could use a lot more of. It said, “This is about art, not money, not credentials. And it’s for everyone.” At 4 p.m., when the show ended, Strauss did what she always did: let visitors peel off a favorite shot from a cool concrete pillar, and take it home. And that was that.

Under I-95, Art For All One Last Time

Photo: Michael Bryant/Philadelphia Inquirer
Photo: Michael Bryant/Philadelphia Inquirer MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer

It's the end for the House of Strauss.
Sunday afternoon under I-95, across the street from the South Philadelphia Target, photographer Zoe Strauss held the 10th – and last – of her annual shows. I love Strauss’ work. There’s a Diane Arbus element to it – an attraction to humankind in various states of disrepair. Strauss, though, perhaps has a deeper love for her subjects than Arbus, a cheering-on quality that shines through. She’s not judging them or exploiting them; she’s giving them a chance to explain themselves, uncomfortable as some of the stories may be.
But the thing about Strauss that was particularly striking Sunday – the thing I’m sorry to see go - was the unusual egalitarianism of these annual events. Encounters with art often means some distance – the price of admission, the sharp elbows of fellow art lovers – between you and the thing you came to see. But for free, you could walk an unexpected place and gaze at a couple of hundred photographs. For $5, you could walk away with a signed Strauss. Hugs and kisses from the photographer, no extra charge.
That’s what hundreds did Sunday. The lines were long, but once you got up to Strauss’ table, she showered her unconditional exuberance upon you.
The personality is part of the experience, no doubt. But there was a vibe to the entire experience that the art world could use a lot more of. It said, “This is about art, not money, not credentials. And it’s for everyone.”
At 4 p.m., when the show ended, Strauss did what she always did: let visitors peel off a favorite shot from a cool concrete pillar, and take it home.
And that was that.
 

Peter Dobrin Inquirer Classical Music Critic
About this blog

Peter Dobrin is a classical music critic and culture writer for The Inquirer. Since 1989, he has written music reviews, features, news and commentary for the paper, covering such topics as the Philadelphia Museum of Art at the Venice Biennale, expansion of the Curtis Institute of Music, the Philadelphia Orchestra's bankruptcy declaration in 2011, Philadelphia's evolving performing arts center and the general health of arts and culture.

Dobrin was a French horn player. He earned an undergraduate degree in performance from the University of Miami, and received a master's degree in music criticism from the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University, where he studied with Elliott Galkin. He has no time to practice today.

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