Wasp

 

Walking the urban village where I live, I noticed two men admiring the ceramic-and-mirror tiling which adorns the exterior of many of our walls.

 

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A  mural, Queen Village, Philly.  Isaiah Zagar, American born 1939

 

 

Do you like this?  I asked.  So great, one of the men said.  What about you?

 

 

 

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Snippet of a mural, Queen Village, Philly.  Isaiah Zagar, American born 1939

 

Yes, I said.  Although it has grown a little excessive, I added.

 

 

 

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Snippet of a mural, Queen Village, Philly.  Isaiah Zagar, American born 1939

 

 

How can any art be described as excessive? the second man asked.

This is not art, I told him.  This is artisanal work.  All art is artisanal work, I said.  But all artisanal work is not art.  This is not Rembrandt.

 

 

 

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Details of a  mural, Queen Village, Philly.  Isaiah Zagar, American born 1939

 

 

The second man got his ire up immediately.  And pronounced himself against people like me dictating terms.   If this tiling is art to me, then it is art, he said.

He was, he said, a constitutional libertarian.

 

What is that?  I asked. 

 

 

 

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Snippet of a mural, Queen Village, Philly.  Isaiah Zagar, American born 1939

 

I believe, he said, that the government should butt out of all our affairs and allow us to live and think as we will. 

 

 

 

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Snippet of a mural, Queen Village, Philly.  Isaiah Zagar, American born 1939

 

I did not remind him that I am not the government and that we were talking about art.

 

 

 

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Kauffman Street mural, Queen Village, Philly, 2017.   Isaiah Zagar, American born 1939

 

 

This tiling, I said, rarely tells a story.  In addition, the technique of its manufacture is not that complicated.  It gets repetitive.  It’s nice and decorative and boring.

 

 

 

 

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Detail of Kauffman Street mural, Queen Village, Philly, 2017.   Isaiah Zagar, American born 1939

 

 

 

What was bothering the second man, really, a guest to the city of Philadelphia?

 

 

 

 

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Detail of Kauffman Street mural, Queen Village, Philly, 2017.   Isaiah Zagar, American born 1939

 

Perhaps it was only the immense heat of a city street in summer.  Who knows?

 

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Detail of Kauffman Street mural, Queen Village, Philly, 2017.   Isaiah Zagar, American born 1939

 

 

Before the two men left to see more tiling, the ireful man turned and looked at me a second too long because he knew he had gone too far with his libertarianism in a city, Philadelphia, which made a nation and that by communal work and sacrifice over hundreds of years. 

 

 

Isaiah Zagar, American born 1939, master tile artisan, in The Magic Garden, South Street, Philadelphia, unknown date

 

 

He was a naughty man in my book. No Federal intervention and there would be no Civil Rights laws for starters. The list is long and I would have survived poorly without the long list of Federal laws and Federal enforcement of these laws. 

 

 

 

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Snippet of a mural, Queen Village, Philly.  Isaiah Zagar, American born 1939

  This part of the city retains the small row houses of its earliest inhabitants, British, Swedish, Germans, Black Americans and successively, Poles, Ukrainians, Russians, Italians who serviced the businesses of the elites who lived and live around Independence Hall, a few blocks away.

 

 

Here is a Philadelphia artist’s Wasp: a marvellous little piece of both art and artisanal work.

 

 

 

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Wasp, date unknown, colour woodcut and detail.  Dan Miller, American born 1928.  Woodmere Museum of Art, Philadelphia. 

The technique involves many successive stages to apply different colours of paints and to shave away wood.

 

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