Courtney Brown charms with ‘City Lore’
What you may find to be usual, mundane, or "just another day in the neighborhood" is what makes Philadelphia so special to Courtney Brown – she sees the extraordinary in the ordinary.
From Los Angeles to Philadelphia, the 24-year-old artist has found a home for her work in a place very different from whence she came.
Brown’s artwork explores the ideas of “urban folk culture” – a hybrid of inner-city influence mixed with old, classic aesthetics. “I’m very attracted to the attributes of traditions that are represented in Philadelphia,” she says, “and just general features of city-life that many find normal, but I find special.”
Brown is a printmaking graduate from the University of the Arts in Center City; but she’s no one-trick pony. Her latest show, City Lore, is a collection of multimedia pieces that relate to iconic imagery of city-life and tradition. It comes in forms of screenprints, paintings, sculptures, and digital designs that don’t even begin to skim the surface of what this artist is capable of doing.
It seems odd that a girl from L.A. would end up in a place like Philly. Her choice to pack up and head east was by both chance and choice, but she found herself quickly falling in love. “Coming to a much smaller city really opened my eyes to the sense of community here. It’s so accessible and all of the neighborhoods look different from one another – it’s easy to find things that I find extraordinary.”
Many of the houses in her original neighborhood were built in the ‘50s and demonstrate charming architecture, but the region is best known for its moderness – malls, highways, and Hollywood. Arriving in a place like Philadelphia was a bit of a culture shock. “Sometimes I see something and I’m like ‘whoa, what is that?’ like how people have candles lit in their windowsills – that’s something totally foreign to me.” Neighborhoods, particularly South Philadelphia, spark interest and guide a lot of her work. It’s the unique personality that residents display right on their porches and collections of knick-knacks they proudly showcase in their windows. “I’m really interested in things that really make a home,” she says.
It’s not just the city that draws her eye – it’s what lies right outside that comes as a source of inspiration. Folk art, like that of the nearby Pennsylvania Dutch, possesses a lot of the essential components that form tradition. Specifically, Brown cites barns hexes and quilts as objects of vision. Their humble color palettes and geometric patterns are reflected in the work presented in City Lore.
“I’m very into the idea of people’s collections,” she says. “I wonder why these things we posses hold such special meaning with us and why we feel connected and compelled to collect them. That’s what I am trying to explore in City Lore”
Courtney Brown’s solo show City Lore will open at Masthead Print Studio, located at 340 Brown St., on Saturday, October 26 at 6 p.m. More information can be found here.