Dox Thrash, American, 1893-1965
This mural depicting the artist Dox Thrash at work was painted on the side of an abandoned north Philadelphia house in 2001. It was painted out for reasons unknown and by unknown people in 2012.
This year the artist, who struggled against overwhelming odds to become a master print-maker and -innovator, was commemorated by a second and larger mural on a building at 17th and Girard Avenue in the city.
Both murals were executed under the auspices of the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program. Begun in the mid-1980s to combat graffiti, the program, whose work pairs artists with interns from high schools, has expanded to complete 3,800 interior and exterior murals.
Many facets of city life are depicted: its history, the diverse culture of successive waves of immigrants, the economic, intellectual, sports and political life of its people. Scenes of nature to illustrate the vast Fairmount Park which is the city’s lungs. Whimsy also. And animals and birds.
Murals disappear behind new construction sometimes. Sometimes, as with the first Dox Thrash commemoration, someone overpaints them. Constant change as with the city itself. As of the end of 2017, construction has blocked most of the second mural.
In the midst of change and flux, I note here the counter-effort to show and discuss and preserve the art of the city: the opening shortly of We Speak: Black Artists in Philadelphia, 1920s-1970s: an exhibition from September 28, 2015 through January 24, 2016 at Woodmere Art Museum in Philadelphia.