I was walking across a bridge which leads from the Amtrak station in Philadelphia across the Schuylkill river to just west of City Hall. The heart of the city. It was a glorious late summer day.
A young man was seated on one of the metal benches on the bridge. He was white. In his 30’s. He had nondescript bags with him. I have worked with many like him.
He addressed me. Only me. Not his white male compatriots striding ahead of me, on their cell phones and turning their well-coiffed heads to address each other briefly. No briefcases any more: everything is in software.
“I hope”, he said, “that your life goes just as you planned it.”
Benched, 1998, oil on canvas. Robert Huckstein, American born 1946. Museum of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Harrisburg
I turned to look at him and smiled and felt ashamed at the stereotype in my head. No: illness, mental illness, poverty, homelessness, loneliness, are not attached to any age or ethnic group or gender.
What is the matter with me? I thought.
Knowledge #51, The Map of Tenderness, fresco on panel, 1999. Joyce Kozloff, American born 1942. Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia
By Your Response to Danger, 1980-82, enamel on metal. Jenny Holzer, American born 1950. Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia
Farm, 2011, archival pigment print. Tim Portlock, American born 1969. Loaned to Woodmere Museum, Philadelphia by a private gallery in 2017.
This was a thriving part of Philadelphia fifty years ago, both industrial and residential. People continue to grow food in urban lots in the city to sustain themselves. The city’s poverty rate is formally 25%; but approaches 35% if you look at the statistics reasonably.
Gin Song, 2004, charcoal on wood, found objects. Whitfield Lovell, American born 1959. Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia