non edible delights

on my way to work on tuesday, i had to stop at blick art supplies to grab some face paint for an upcoming event at the dorm i work in. despite the lingering sleep still in my eyes, i felt a nice buzz riding through downtown, watching the world crank up for the day. after locking my bike up on the corner of sansom and chestnut, i noticed this little sign right next to the door leading down to blick:

in a city as old as philadelphia, you see a lot of historical monument signs outside of buildings and homes, and while it's a cool reminder of how much has happened here, you sort of get used to it. however, this sign (or "tablet" as it refers to itself) gave me a distinct thrill. who on earth is the mystery admirer who placed it on this wall? what did eakin's studio look like in 1885? can anyone just put up a tablet commemorating an artist of historical significance? and calling yourself "an admirer" is so much more romantic than "anonymous," or a real name! maybe it was the lack of coffee in my system, but something about this sight just made me swoon with joy.

with a lingering smile, i bounded down the steps into blick. i forgot how visually overwhelming big art stores can be, and to add to it, this one in particular is lit insanely brightly, so everything just pops. my eyes immediately pulled me in a hundred directions, toward different colors, textures and shapes.

keep in mind that i don't actively make this kind of visual art. despite my years of art classes in middle and high school, i wouldn't really know what to do with a tube of oil paint or tiny plastic trees. the things i felt compelled to photograph don't appeal to me because i want to buy them - they're just weirdly pleasing to my eye.

wandering through the store, i thought about how a real artist might feel in here: aisles and aisles of glossy new materials and tools ready to make anything the heart desires. so much potential energy waiting to be unleashed through eyes and fingers out into the world. then it hit me - this is exactly how i feel upon entering a well-stocked grocery store or farmer's market. different items seem to whisper of what could be, and as i take it all in, ideas start to form in my brain, called into being by some mysterious force of creativity. so many things seem possible as i fill my cart with assorted sundries.

the connection between art and well prepared food shined brightly as i considered all this on the way to blick's kids section. whether it's a white wall, public park, or an empty porcelain plate, filling spaces with form and/or sensation that didn't exist before is what makes life tolerable, even beautiful. it's what makes us feel connected to one another. it's what prompted an admirer to hang a plaque for thomas eakins on a dirty gray wall in center city.


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