Philip Koch, Mount Washington, oil on panel, 18 x 24"
"Would Monet Paint Mount Washington?" A motorist stuck in traffic actually rolled his window down and yelled this out to me as I painted this oil in the Mount Washington section of Baltimore. Now any artist who sets up a portable easel in a public place places them self in the front line for odd responses from passers by. I was set up just feet from traffic on a bridge over the river in the painting. The traffic was stuck in a terrible jam caused by the grand opening of a new Whole Foods grocery. It was drawing record crowds. Baltimore is a small enough town that this was a big deal.
Leaving the Whole Foods parking lot meant spending time in a traffic jam. Nothing is all bad, and my glacial progress driving in my car one afternoon allowed me time to discover the potential of the view when one was half way over the river. So I came back and set up my easel on the sidewalk, just a few feet from the inching along traffic. The view was great even if I had to breath automobile exhaust as the price of entry.
What caught my eye was the pattern of late afternoon shadows on the ancient concrete bulkhead that contains the waters of the Jones Falls river as it flows south to Baltimore's Inner Harbor. Mount Washington is an area that was almost rural in feeling when I first moved there, but a number of new commercial developments are rapidly changing that ambience. Sadly, despite their stratospheric prices, I'm a very regular customer at Whole Foods. Deepening the shame, a Starbucks went in right next door. The area was once a separate village, but it is now encircled and engulfed by urban Baltimore. I am torn between regret of losing the what was unique in this little town's past and enjoying the convenience of the new retail ventures. It is hard to rage against the advances of suburban commercial development with a latte in your hand.