Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Strangest Comment this Painter Ever Received



Philip Koch, Mount Washington, oil on panel, 18 x 24"
1995

"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.


4 comments:

  1. This is such a striking spot, that it almost makes me want to come visit there. You have really captured the quaint village that once was. I know this area well, and the views surrounding your painting spot are a bit less picturesque. This a beautiful example of being able to capture what the artist's eye sees. This is a realy nice piece.

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  2. Thanks Julie. You are right about the area right around this spot as being a tad less picturesque (unless centuries from now they consider elevated multi-lane highways beautiful). Still, I think Mt. Washington is a cool little spot in Baltimore.

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  3. Oddly surfing the net and found your artwork... am a resident of Mt. Washington and walk to the post or the dreaded Starbucks quiet often and I stop along the bridge there and look down to see what life is stirring. The view is pretty much the same the building in the background is now red though having become a dog grooming salon. And the traffic is much worse during the reconstruction of the water main that lays beneath Falls Road, which snarls traffic to a maddening halt during the day. I suggest some more serene views are over in the newly re-opened Robert E Lee Park down the street....I would be certain many people would appreciate your interpretation of the majestic views. I suggest the view from the light rail bridge that crosses Lake Roland or from the new bridge looking down upon the damn. Anyway, thanks for sharing. Mike

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  4. Hi Mike, thanks for your comments! I'm a Mt. Washington resident too and get to spend lots of time in the area and over the years painted a mumber of the great views you recommend. RE Lee Park is an old friend too- was just there yesterday for a long walk.

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