Not Long for This World: Memorial Day 2023

impromptu memorial with photograph and flowers on tree
An impromptu/informal memorial for an unknown young man, attached to a tree in Woods Run

On an otherwise unremarkable side street, a single roadside tree stands out from the rest. Attached to it is a bouquet of pink and white flowers, a solar-powered light, and enlarged color photograph of a young man. The subject is both movie star handsome and ruggedly everyman in his plain white t-shirt and stretchy track suit pants. Aside from the man’s face, every square inch of exposed skin has been tattoo’d in an array of text, glyphs, and images.

Of course we can’t know for sure—there is no annotation for the beribboned photo on this back-alley tree—but by now, we’re accustomed to think of these informal tributes as memorials for lost friends, loved-ones, or community members who’ve passed onto the infinite entirely too soon for those who mourn them here on earth.

memorial murals painted on brick wall
Shamus/Mikey, Polish Hill

Memorial Day. Let’s do this. In what has become an Orbit tradition, we take a hyper-local turn on today’s holiday. No, it’s not strictly about honoring our fallen members our armed services, but it’s also not about discount mattresses and blow-out doorbuster deals at the mall.

These impromptu tributes—painted on walls and staked into roadside berms, placed in windows and stuck into tree trunks—are the people’s memorials. They’re what we’ll be thinking about this day—yes, along with slaw dogs, Clancy’s chips, and beer from a can—as we memorialize the memorials that are inevitably not long for this world.

Happy Memorial Day, y’all.

purple cross memorial by large grass field
unknown, Perry South
detail from roadside cross of hearts with hard-to-read message
detail: “Please don’t think of me in sadness …”
memorial poster in retail store window
unknown, Homestead
roadside cross among creeping vines
unknown, Manchester
painted memorial for young woman
Lotte, Polish Hill
graffiti-style memorial with rats
Harley (the rat?), Chateau
brick wall with names of deceased community members
“Never Forgotten” East Ohio St. OG’s (sic.), Deutschtown
child's toys attached to chain link fence
unknown, Duquesne
roadside memorial with flowers and large red bow
Joseph Jackson, Wiley Ford, WV
memorial with flowers and angel figure
unknown, Bloomfield
roadside memorial with heart balloons and landscaping bricks
Chester, New Eagle

Can’t Sit Down: The Inevitable Parking Chair Post

single chair from dinette set on street, acting as a "parking chair", Pittsburgh, PA
The classic! A single chair from a dinette set, orphaned and alone, reserving an on-street parking spot. Garfield

Alone in the rain, playing dangerously in the street, a lone chair stands sentry over his master’s cherished sixteen feet of curbside frontage. The seat was once a member of a family—four, perhaps six, identical siblings joined around a matching dining table where the rest of the household would eat and cajole, argue and play. Now though, with that Camelot lost, just one chair is banished to the loneliest, last role of its life—standing on the street, waiting for a car to come home, holding a parking place.

plastic lawn chair holding parking spot in front of small house
Parking chair with backup cone, just in case. Lawrenceville

It’s strange to think of the omnipresent Pittsburgh parking chair as an endangered species or dying phenomenon—it is not, by any means—but the character of the object reserving that spot has changed significantly.

Twenty years ago, the parking scene was still dominated by chairs that once held keisters at the kitchen table. That image of the single chrome dinette chair, rusting and battered, dirty stuffing leaking through cracks in the upholstery, is indelible if you were lucky enough to see them in those salad days.

That time is past, though. Just look at this collection of photographs—the cheap, stackable, white plastic lawn chair has taken over the market and ex-dining chairs are few and far between. There’s still a lot of variety—folding chairs of every make and model and non-chair “chairs” (we’ll get to those)—but we still miss those diner-style seats that used to dot row house residential streets like birds on a wire.

East Liberty

For the last eight years The Orbit has resisted the urge to park our behind in this most predictable of subjects d’Burgh—it seemed too easy and too obvious.

Parking chairs are also really difficult to photograph well. I know, I know—boo hoo to this guy living the dream making fat stacks taking pictures of street chairs in Pittsburgh—do your job, amirite? It ain’t that easy, buddy. You want to see the chair, sure, but it’s (usually) only interesting in the context of a much larger thing—an entire house or a row of them—that it’s related to. So you’ve got to get this little thing in front of really big thing and then houses have all this visual noise distracting you, blah, blah, blah—it ain’t easy.

Anyway, the oddly routine experience of seeing single chairs randomly in the street is also right up our, ahem, alley. So that ultimately won out, even if these aren’t our finest photos.

Finally, if you’ve got a great parking chair, a photo of one, or a story about them, we’d love to hear about it or get tagged on it.

Taped-up. Lawrenceville
folding chair painted in Steelers black-and-gold
Steelers parking chair! Lawrenceville
metal folding chair on street in front of row house in Pittsburgh, PA
plastic chair holding parking spot on street
Parking spot au naturale, Greenfield
brick row house with folding chair in street marking parking place, Pittsburgh, PA
folding chair on street in front of row house, Pittsburgh, PA
folding chair used to save parking place in front of row houses
plastic chair with weight attached to seat by tape
No parking AND no sitting. Polish Hill
plastic lawn chair on street in front of small house
Out front and proud. Hazelwood
stacked lawn furniture in front of row house
Parked parking chairs, ready to deploy. Bloomfield
two high-backed wooden chairs left on street in front of row houses
Parking chair twins! Lawrenceville
wooden chair holding parking spot on street
Chair’s eye view. Lawrenceville

Just in Case You Didn’t Get the Hint …

chair painted with "No Parking" message
“No Parking.” Lawrenceville
metal folding chair with hand-written sign reading "Please do not move chair. Therapist coming."
“Please do not move chair—therapist coming.” Lawrenceville
plastic lawn chair with "No parking" message
“No Parking! You will be towed away.” Bloomfield

Parking Non-Chairs

custom built parking spot holder created from stools and "No Parking" signs
“The Thing” (our term), Bloomfield
traffic cone with Halloween decoration in front of row house
Park here and you’ll get hexed! Parking witch, Southside
stacked milk crates holding parking spot
Parking milk crates, Bloomfield
Traffic cone covered in stickers
The cone of toxic masculinity, Bloomfield
restaurant tray holder used to save parking space
Parking tray holder and 4×4, Lawrenceville
chair and traffic bollard left in front of row houses
The “Anything Goes!” Parking bollard, parking chair with 2x4s, Lawrenceville

Losing One’s Mind: A Scene Report from Art All Night 2023

dollhouse covered with large collection of decorations
Sometimes a picture may be worth even more than a thousand words. “I Lost My Mind” (detail) by Erin Harper was included in Art All Night 2023

There will be time to murder and create. The words are painted and collaged onto a set of five entrance steps to an elaborately over-the-top front porch. The three-story, Victorian-style dollhouse is covered with a blitzkrieg of … everything. Small toys, buttons, shells, bottle caps, and other found objects have been hot-glued to its surfaces along with a loose collage of magazine cuttings, product packaging, and patterned prints. The decoration is not limited to the exterior of the house. No, the walls and floor of each interior room are decked-out, each in a different over-the-top theme.

The art piece, titled I Lost My Mind, is by Erin Harper. One hopes Ms. Harper was speaking metaphorically of both the losing of minds and murder, but she certainly found time to create. It was perhaps the most striking work at last weekend’s Art All Night, this year again at 31st Street Studios in the Strip District.

dollhouse covered with large collection of decorations
If you have to make time for just one … “I Lost My Mind,” Erin Harper (detail)

Let’s get something straight: there were boobs—lots of them—wangs too. And yes, there was at least one hoo-ha. In addition to the requisite nudes and soft-porn, other Art All Night perennial genres included sports art, paint-splattered baby dolls, skip-a-little-rope, smoke-a-little-dope doobie visions, skulls, skeletons, and zombies, visual puns, and lots and lots of renditions of the downtown Pittsburgh skyline. This being the first Art All Night since the Dobbs decision came down, women’s rights and body autonomy was an important topical issue.

painting of three lizard people with human in net bag
The Sleestack came back. “Slimy,” Don Strange

These specialties are not the sum of the artwork included at Art All Night. Despite the focus of this piece, know that Art All Night also features landscapes in oil, portrait paintings, photography, ceramics, elaborate sculpture, delicate craft, terrific kids art, and all the rest. The event, of course, is so much more than paintings hung on plywood walls—the mass of people out-and-about, kids going nuts on cardboard, performance art, the drum circle under the 31st Street Bridge.

But it is this collision of the sublime, along with the ridiculous and the mundane that makes Art All Night so special. And what is most thrilling is that these individual bizarre expressions—created as jokes or under the influence of hallucinogens or mental health issues as they may—have an outlet for public exhibition.

crude painting of woman in clown makeup and rainbow outfit
What the heck, man? “Brittany in a Sketchy Atlantic City Hotel,” Joseph Heckmann

I don’t know if there’s a gallery out there that would show Joseph Heckmann’s Brittany in a Sketchy Atlantic City Hotel, but I’m sure glad I got to see it. What was Brittany doing in Atlantic City and why is she dressed like a clown headed to aerobics? Does she really have a giant tattoo of another clown on her left leg? I want answers, sure, but Heckmann’s acrylic painting gives us that great gift of wonder—not just about the subject of the artwork, but about its creator too.

painting of creature with two faces and Mickey Mouse ears holding both a skull and a rainbow
A whole different rainbow connection. “Death, Division, and the Iconography of Hope,” Adam Greene

That is Art All Night’s great gift to the world—both to its event goers and its art contributors. It continues, 26 year on, to be a safe space of free expression for every kind of any person to do what they want to do and share it with everyone else. Hats off, yet again, to the fantastic crew that manages to pull this genie out of a hat year after year.

painting of creature with fish body and human legs
If chickens can have fingers, fish can have legs … and perform on a Vaudeville stage. “Legs,” Casey Welsby
psychedelic painting with lava flow, monsters, disembodied eyeballs, and an enormous cigarette
Rope was skipped here. “Path to Pacaya,” Megan D’Jovin
painting of downtown Pittsburgh as fantasy land
Black and gold and emerald green. “OZ Pgh,” Tara Lee Fedonni
painting of nun with a popsicle
Nun havin’ fun. “Popsicle Nun,” Leah O’Shea
painting of crucified nun with Bible verses
A nun not havin’ so much fun. “The Scorned Nun,” Faith M.
artwork made from colored moss
You moss remember this. “I’ve Got You Covered,” Angie Monk
crude painting of Tom Brady in suit with devil horns and wings
Tom Brady: “known cheater,” artistic muse. “GOAT 666,” The Artiste Reno
crude painting of creature on 2x4 board
Baby on board. untitled, Eileen Cousins
painting of muppet character Bert with alien-like figure, both bleeding
Ernie’s got a brand new bag. “Existence is Futile,” John Rogers
artwork of blue jeans under glass with message "In case of emergency, break glass"
Big pants to fill. “In Case of Emergency Break Glass,” Taylor Atkins
artwork of two women dancing with robots
Robot dance party. Unknown (journalism fail!)
artwork of bloody bathroom sink and mirror as scene of apparent suicide
Red wave. “The Wave Returns to the Ocean,” Jenna McDermot
mixed media painting/assemblage of blue-haired girl looking like a zombie
Zombified and skeletized. “Speechless,” Brenda Vernon
painting of woman as half live human, half skeleton
Flesh and bones. untitled, Lindsay Tate
painting of dumpster on fire
Fire in the hole. “It’s Fine,” Crystal Berry
painting of busy street scene with skeletons in foreground
Down at the tube station at Midnight. “Wood Street T Station,” Brendan Donovan

Hoodwinked! Art from the Engine Room

hood of minivan painted with giant human eye
Here’s lookin’ at you. The big eye on the hood of the Red Fish Bowl art van in Lawrenceville. One of many fine examples of artworks created for the engine hoods of automobiles.

Staring right back at you is the biggest eyeball you’ve ever seen. We’re talking about a King Kong-sized window to the soul. Gulliver’s frightened ocular as he’s swarmed by Lilliputians. The last thing your reincarnated keister sees before the fly-swatter takes you onto your next life … and it’s parked right there on Butler Street.

Our Lady of Perpetual Torque, Bloomfield

If you thought great art was confined to museum halls and bathroom stalls, banish that notion from your mind! Yes, it’s everywhere and anywhere. Why, you’ll find the work of budding young Picassos, Yayoi Kasamas, and Thomas Kinkades on worksheds, mailboxes, trash dumpsters, and right in the middle of the street.

But cars, man, cars! We’re Americans! We drive everywhere and get angry doing it! The automobile is our religion and its finish coating is this temple’s elegant spires and stained-glass windows. Why not treat it like the holy house it truly is?

We’ve all been hoodwinked in one way or another, but this time it’s in the very best way. The mother of all mothers blessing an F-150; a chainsaw-wielding mastodon rider with a window to another galaxy; someone’s sun-bleached Easy Rider fantasy played out across the front of an Econoline van.

So let’s get down under—and over—the hood and rev up another great canvas for self/automotive expression.

Chainsaw-wielding mastadon rider with a window to another galaxy, Lawrenceville
Stag in sunlight by Jim M., Jeannette
airbrushed artwork of two motorcycles on hood of a van
Motorcycles in the desert, Polish Hill
worn hood of 1970s Pontiac Firebird with painted logo for the brand
The mother of all hood art! 1970s Firebird, Strip District
VW Beetle painted with wild confetti-like shapes and colors
Confetti Beetle, Bloomfield
hood of car painted with skull and bloody fangs
Bloody skull/fangs, Lawrenceville
C OOL STUD S, Bloomfield. [Side note: they also could have gone with HO DENTS.]
front of van with hood custom painted as "Bad Girl"
Bad Girl, Downtown. [Side note: true to her name, Bad Girl was illegally parked.]

In De Stijl of De Night: The Return of the House of Hades “Toynbee Tiles”

abstract street art made from cut linoleum tiles
“HOH 22—Verticoll” (sic.), Downtown. One of many similar tile-based artworks installed on Pittsburgh streets over the last year

Appearing like alien inscriptions burned into city streets, they just seemed to arrive out of nowhere, in the still of the night. The images are cryptic—they could be designs for astral exploration or tools to cure conditions we can only imagine. These coded hieroglyphics seem as if they’ve been very intentionally left for only the most sentient of earth’s creatures who may be able to comprehend their true meanings.

abstract street art made from cut linoleum tiles
HOH 21, Downtown

When last we encountered the House of Hades, six years ago, it was in the form of a series of similar artworks that could be fairly described as tributes or homage to Toynbee Tiles. [Newcomers to this topic: click those links for background.] The pieces used the same graphic language as the Toynbee originals: big block letters with clear—if bizarre—messaging that reads like paranoid prophesy of dystopia.

One man vs. American media in society, reads a tile; Media must be reduced to ash, another. One even goes as far as to name its inspiration: The resurrection of Toynbee’s idea in society.

Those pieces, all including the date 2012 were installed on and around Blvd. of the Allies, Downtown, in 2017. A cursory look around the Internet shows The House of Hades deploying similar pieces in a raft of American cities: Philadelphia, Milwaukee, St. Louis, and Richmond, to name a few.

abstract street art made from cut linoleum tiles
HOH 22, Downtown

Unless your author is slipping—and that is entirely likely—The House of Hades left Pittsburgh’s streets alone for the next five years.

Starting in the summer of 2022, though, new Toybee-like tiles began appearing throughout the city—Bloomfield, Oakland, Lawrenceville, and especially Downtown. These new cut-up mosaic street pieces are in the same medium as House of Hades’ 2017 deployment, but with an entirely different visual style. We don’t know these are from the same person or people—heck, we don’t know anything about these folks!—but the correlation and HOH attribution suggest our old friend is back in town.

abstract street art made from cut linoleum tiles
HOH 21, Downtown

I don’t know what you did with your pandemic, but it feels like The House of Hades spent the last couple years working on a brand new bag. These pieces avoid any scorn of American media by abandoning text entirely (aside each tile’s HOH inscription). Instead, the tiles are more pure art: constructivist assemblages of colored blocks and metric lines, maze-like interlocking shapes and jumbled forms like tall stacks of books on a shaky table. They may be read as floor plans to space housing or profile views of history, mid-excavation. Rorschach-like, one can probably read just about anything into these designs depending on where the mind is inclined to wander.

And wander it shall as we stare deeply into these fascinating artifacts and dream of the next contact from beyond.

abstract street art made from cut linoleum tiles
HOH 21, Downtown
abstract street art made from cut linoleum tiles
HOH 22, Lawrenceville
abstract street art made from cut linoleum tiles
HOH 21, Downtown
abstract street art made from cut linoleum tiles
HOH 21, Downtown
abstract street art made from cut linoleum tiles
HOH 22 ‘Su__?, Bloomfield
abstract street art made from cut linoleum tiles
HOH 22, Lawrenceville
abstract street art made from cut linoleum tiles
HOH 22, Oakland

Special thanks to Orbit reader Ivan Russell for his tips on a couple of the Downtown tiles.

Chain Chain Chain: The Posthumous Portraits of Workmen’s Circle Branch 45 Cemetery, Part 2

photograph of young man encased in Lucite and set into grave marker
The Lucite-enclosed photograph of Harry Begler (d. 1921). One of many grave markers that include both photographs and the symbolic imagery of chain links at Workmen’s Circle Branch 45 Cemetery, Shaler

From inside a half-globe of clear Lucite, Harry Begler stares straight back at us. The young man’s image is amazingly intact and undistorted by the odd curvature of the material that protects his photograph. The clear casing has suffered somewhat over time, but is still in terrific condition considering it’s spent the last hundred years living through as many freeze-and-thaw cycles, the corrosive air produced by heavy industry, and the inevitable presence of no-goodniks. Centered below Beglar’s photo and cut into his long granite grave marker is the depiction of three chain links making an ever-so-graceful arc downward.

ceramic photograph inset in gravestone
Harry Abromovitz, 1888-1932

Chains are a not-uncommon symbol to find etched into gravestones and they appear in great frequency here at Workmen’s Circle Branch 45 Cemetery. Begler’s three links match the totem of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows whose symbol—standing for Amicitia Amor et Veritas (English: Friendship, Love, and Truth)—is its own standalone thing.

The rest of Workmen’s Circle’s linked chain imagery takes an entirely different form. For these, an unbroken chain encircles the deceased’s portrait.

cracked ceramic photograph inset in gravestone
Harry Shore, 1885-1928

Google the subject and you’ll find a whole lot more information around grave marker carvings that feature a broken chain—with its last link either missing or severed. There even appears to be a common twofer plan where the first half of a couple to die would have the broken link with her or his partner following it up with a connected chain to symbolize the pair united in the afterlife. We don’t see any of this at Workmen’s Circle, though—all chains are perfect circles and completely intact.

That the residents of Workmen’s Circle are all Jews may or may not be significant with regard to the symbolism of chains on grave markers. This goy couldn’t find anything connecting the two, but perhaps our O.T. brothers and sisters can help us out here.

ceramic photograph inset in gravestone
Max Kaufman, d. 1931

Last week we took a look at the ghostly half-there posthumous portraits at little Workmen’s Circle cemetery in Shaler. Today, we’ve linked together [har har har] a very different theme from the same pool of ceramic grave marker photographs from the early 20th Century.

Speculation aside, it’s always interesting to see how these patterns emerge at certain cemeteries—it’s almost fad-like. So gander away at these terrific combos of grave marker photographic portraits and the wreath-like protective chains that wrap them up both as design elements and symbols.

ceramic photograph inset in gravestone
Joseph Bazell, 1879-1929
ceramic photograph inset in gravestone
Celia Cohen, d. 1953
ceramic photograph inset in gravestone
Daniel Beck, 1900-1931
ceramic photograph of young man inset in gravestone
Jacob Firestine, d. 1914
ceramic photograph inset in gravestone
William Singer, 1882-1929
ceramic photograph inset in gravestone
Phillip Cohen, d. 1931
ceramic photograph inset in gravestone
Anshel Cohen, d. 1931
ceramic photograph of young boy inset in gravestone
Jesse Cohen

Among the Ghosts: The Posthumous Portraits of Workmen’s Circle Branch 45 Cemetery, Part 1

ceramic photograph inset in gravestone
The ghostly image of Bennie Mazer (d. 1925) set into his grave marker. One of many similar deteriorating ceramic photos at Workmen’s Circle Branch 45 Cemetery, Shaler

The young man—he’s perhaps all of twenty-five—sits for his formal portrait in a jacket, tie, and pressed white dress shirt. Bennie Mazer possesses a full head of thick black hair and holds what is fair to call a Mona Lisa smile. The man’s eyes, though, are inscrutable. Through no fault of his own, the photograph—printed on a ceramic disc nearly one hundred years ago—has started to deteriorate in a most unexpected way.

In this image, Mr. Mazer’s deep set eyes appear as if engulfed by sparkles of light. The swirling electrical field that creeps over his right shoulder seems to have entered the body and lit Mazer like a jack-o-lantern from within.

The photograph, set into a large stone grave marker, is lovely, fascinating, and bizarre—equal parts local history and science fiction. It’s also hard to fathom how this object that survived 98 harsh Pittsburgh winters would deteriorate in such a lopsided way. The reality probably has to do with the printing technique and the particular value of that two-tone shade, but it feels like the work of spirits.

faded ceramic photograph of young girl inset in gravestone
Dora Cherry, 1909-1918

The Orbit first went goo-goo ga-ga over these early-century ceramic grave photos when we encountered them at Loretto Cemetery years ago. Those were a revelation … and then Beaver Cemetery upped the ante considerably. Those earlier posts brought to mind all sorts of ponderances on memory and permanence and how we (the living) use these places—we’ll not repeat all that here but to say those questions are never far from the noggin.

faded ceramic photograph inset into grave stone
Harry Beck

We also discussed the strange clustering of ceramic photos in certain cemeteries and the near complete absence in others. Let me know if you find more than three or four of these in all of giant Allegheny Cemetery.

Stone for stone, the per capita count of photo graves, or posthumous portraits, at the tiny Workman’s Circle Branch 45 Cemetery (and next-door New Light Cemetery—we’ll get to that) is off-the-charts. There are so many examples that we decided to break these out into a series around a few loose themes.

cracked ceramic photograph inset in gravestone

Here then is part one, where we look at the most haunting of the gravestone portraits—the ones that are in their own slow dissolve right before our eyes. The images contained range from mostly there with some weird distortions—like we see with Bennie Mazer—to versions so weatherbeaten and sun-bleached as to make their subjects barely distinguishable. We also threw in a handful of gentle fades and a couple that have apparently been defaced—a sadly common occurrence at all these cemeteries.

We’ll quit the gabbin’ so you can get to gawkin’. We’ll see you on the other side.

ceramic photograph inset in gravestone
deteriorating ceramic photo of young woman inset in gravestone
Eva Millstone, 1895-1917
ceramic photograph inset in gravestone
Simon Begler, 1890-1932
ceramic photograph inset in gravestone
Eleanor Saul, 1900-1925
ceramic photograph of young girl inset in gravestone
ceramic photograph of young girl inset in gravestone
Mary Katz, d. 1922
ceramic photograph inset in gravestone
Temma Sigal, d. 1939
ceramic photograph inset in gravestone
Harry Singer, d. 1927
gravestone with inset ceramic photo
Harry Singer
defaced ceramic photograph inset in gravestone
Rebecca Leah, d. 1940
defaced ceramic photo insert in gravestone
Evelyn Goldman, 1927-1934
gravestone with photo inset removed
One that got away / Spock hands. S. Rozinsky d. 1918

See also: Chain Chain Chain: The Posthumous Portraits of Workmen’s Circle Branch 45 Cemetery, Part 2

Skyline Fine Time: At Ten, An All-U-Can-Eat Buffet of Downtown Pittsburgh

mural of people in vestments praying with skyline of downtown Pittsburgh
Holy City. A mural featuring the skyline of downtown Pittsburgh, Homewood

Man, I hope you came ready to eat.

It’s been a been more than a year since The Orbit served up its last over-the-top feast of all things skyline-shaped, themed, printed, and painted, so you have a right to be hungry.

And O! What a meal we’ve prepared for the skyline-starved today! Murals with downtown Pittsburgh as both star and supporting player. Business signage to either boast one’s 412 bona fides or pander to us yokels from a corporate office far, far away. Hand-created tributes as extracurricular activity spray painted onto bicycle paths and inked onto city steps railings.

mural with view of downtown Pittsburgh skyline
The city with a disembodied foot: mural, Perry Hilltop

All that—and more—awaits diners at this all-u-can-eat buffet of bridges, The Point, Steel Tower, PPG, and the rest. Grab a fork and knife, don’t waste your time on rolls—those are for suckers—and dig into a legitimate, if figurative, smorgasbord of Your Favorite City™ put on the pedestal it deserves … or, at least, thinks it deserves when it’s not too down on itself.

If somehow you’re still hungry for more, you can always go back to skyline stories one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine part 1 and 2, you know, just to tide you over.

colorful mural of downtown Pittsburgh rendered in cubist style
Cubist City: mural, Love Pittsburgh, Strip District
mural of downtown Pittsburgh awash with river water
Flood City: mural, Ketchup City, Sharpsburg
mural in arcade including downtown Pittsburgh skyline with cartoon zombies
Undead City: mural, Zombieburgh, Monroeville Mall
mural including many musicians and skyline of downtown Pittsburgh
Music City: mural (detail), Homewood
mural on side of row house featuring shoe designer and downtown Pittsburgh
Shoe City: mural, Mexican War Streets, North Side
painting of downtown Pittsburgh skyline with sparkles
Sparkle City: The Color Park, South Side
mural for coffee shop with skyline of downtown Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh: where the coffee flows like a tidal wave. Adda Coffee, Garfield
painting of downtown Pittsburgh skyline hung on sagging canvas in warehouse
Sagging City: mural, Art All Night 2022
pen drawing of downtown Pittsburgh skyline drawn on handrail for public steps
Step City: handrail drawing, Polish Hill
barber shop sign including skyline of downtown Pittsburgh
‘Do City: Pittsburgh Cuts & Styles, Wilkinsburg
mural in shop window including skyline of downtown Pittsburgh
Green City: Patagonia, Shadyside
sign for gym featuring stylized image of downtown Pittsburgh
It’s 9:10 somewhere. Downtown Pittsburgh plus the old Duquesne Brewery clock, Crossfit Athletics, South Side
electrician's van with image of skyline of downtown Pittsburgh
Emerald City: Emerald Electrical Services van
electrician's van decorated with stylized silhouette of downtown Pittsburgh skyline
Electric City: A to Z Quality Electric
decal on car of downtown Pittsburgh skyline rendered as simple icon
Iconic City … at least we hope this is a super-stylized image of The Point and downtown buildings and not something more sinister
label for handmade soap including downtown Pittsburgh with bubbles and rubber ducky
Bubble City: Up in Suds Soap
beer sign with downtown Pittsburgh in faux-neon
Buy-a-Lady-a-Drink City: Stella Artois beer sign
retail sign including skyline of downtown Pittsburgh
Paradise City: Winner’s Paradise, Wilkinsburg
logo for kickball league including skyline of downtown Pittsburgh
A city with high heels and rubber balls: Steel City Kickers League, Lawrenceville
business sign with silhouette of downtown Pittsburgh skyline
River (Trail) City: River Trail Cafe, North Side
business sign with silhouette of downtown Pittsburgh skyline
Gray City: Quinerly Financial Group, North Side
window decal with silhouette of downtown Pittsburgh skyline
Food City: Pittsburgh Restaurant Week office, North Side
sign for Pittsburgh neighborway with skyline of downtown Pittsburgh
This is why we can’t have nice things. PGH DOMI neighborway signage, Lawrenceville
logo for animal rescue organization featuring skyline of downtown Pittsburgh
Paws Across Pittsburgh, Tarentum
sign for retail store including skyline of downtown Pittsburgh
Sideways City: Cohen’s Collectibles & More, Regent Square

A Window of Whispers: One Year at Silver Apple Gallery

art installation of imagined landscape made from recycled food packaging by artist Kirsten Ervin at Silver Apple Gallery, Pittsburgh
Kirsten Ervin “Peace on Earth” (Dec. 1-31, 2022)

A window of whispers. The alluring title comes courtesy of artist Escalator Harrison (neé Dan Ivec) whose solo show of small pen-and-ink drawings filled one of Pittsburgh’s smallest art galleries for the first half of April, 2022. The gallery itself—a mere two-and-half feet wide, not quite as tall, and fronted by a single pane of glass—is its own window of whispers, even when the Escalator’s not running.

The Silver Apple Gallery, located on residential Main Street in Lawrenceville, was installed right around New Year’s Day, 2022, and received its signage, lighting, and variable pedestal options in the coming weeks. We thought we’d celebrate that achievement with a look back at its first year.

show announcement for Escalator Harrison's "A Window of Whispers" at Silver Apple Gallery, PIttsburgh
Show announcement for Escalator Harrison’s “A Window of Whispers”

Full disclosure: We at Pittsburgh Orbit are not impartial observers to this particular story. This has been a project between your author and Mrs. Orbit from the start and it’s been a joy to see how the little venture has taken on a life of its own. In that first calendar year we hosted 11 individual artist shows—two a month on the even months (we had one cancelation in December)—and offered the space as a free little art gallery/art swap on the odd months.

The shows have been tremendous with many of the artists creating site-specific installations that completely maximized the space to turn what is essentially a glass-fronted, street-facing, cupboard with pretensions into a magic oasis of creativity and surprise for determined visitors and random passers-by alike.

collection of abstracted car wash photos by artist Suzanne Werder installed at Silver Apple Gallery, Pittsburgh
Suzanne Werder “Car Wash” (Feb. 1-14, 2022)
show announcement for Ricardo Solis' show at Silver Apple Gallery, PIttsburgh
Announcement for Ricardo Solis’ (untitled) show

The single-artist shows have come with all the fixins. Openings, closings, and in one case “middling” receptions right there on the porch and spilling out onto the sidewalk. Attended by friends of the artist, gallery faithful, neighbors, and the curious, these have been great ways for people to see the artwork who mayn’t be in the neighborhood otherwise—and it’s just a good excuse to have folks hang out on a Sunday afternoon (or whenever).

totem people created from burnt wood
Stick people by Claudia McGill, arriving by mail from Eastern PA, Jan. 2022
collage artwork by artist Kim Breit
Collage by Kim Breit, left in gallery Sept. 2022

And what of the pieces randomly arriving during free gallery months? To say that every day is a surprise would be a stretch—but it’s more often than not.

Right out of the gate, art hero Claudia McGill sent us a package from the other side of the state containing a family of “stick people” (photo above) and a gaggle of equally wonderful “vial people.” Serial contributors like collage artist Kim Breit, Dan Ivec, Mark347, and John “Clohn Art” Lee—all of whom have had/will have solo shows at the space—have dropped-off terrific small works.

artist John Lee with a painting outside of Silver Apple Gallery, Pittsburgh
Artist John Lee drops off the first piece of free art at the Silver Apple—before we even had a sign—January, 2022
Untitled landscape painting by David Geer
Untitled landscape by David Geer, left in gallery Jan. 2023

Like a mini Art All Night, what walks in through our tiny glass door comes in all media—paintings, drawings, ceramics, assemblages, collage, papier mache, photographs, sculpture, lino prints—you name it. Some pieces stay for a little while, some are gone so fast we don’t even get to see them once. Like that proverbial tree falling in the forest, we don’t even know what we don’t know.

small painting by Stephen Caspar
Painting by Stephen Caspar, left in the gallery Feb. 2022
public television personality Rick Sebak rendered as a hot dog in crayon artwork
“Rick Dog,” left in the gallery May, 2022 (artist unknown)

Enough tooting of one’s own horn! It was a great first year and we have an exciting slate of shows booked all the way through the end of the year. The current show—Dave English and Jennifer Ramsey’s “A Spirited Winter”—is terrific and well worthy of your eyeballs.

If you find yourself on Main Street in Lawrenceville, maybe pause to take in whatever’s happening in the gallery on that particular day. You can follow what we’re doing here or there and hopefully we’ll see you and/or your art around the gallery sometime soon.

installation art with handmade trolls in woodland scene at Silver Apple Gallery, Pittsburgh
Erica Leigh Murray “The Life Ephemeral” (June 16-30, 2022)
playing card-sized artworks of imagined dragons
Ralph Cuccaro “The Wrath of Caesar Baby” (detail) (June 1-15, 2022)
show announcement for Sherri Roberts' "Grinn While You Can: Tiny Art for Small Spaces" at Silver Apple Gallery, PIttsburgh
Announcement for Sherri Roberts’ “Grinn While You Can: Tiny Art for Small Spaces”
small paintings of imagined creatures in gold frames
John Lee “Sold Out Solo Show” (detail) (Aug. 1-16, 2022)
colorful monoprints made with leaves
Tracey Donoughe “Curing Plant Blindness” (Aug. 18-31, 2022)
show announcement for Melissa Ciccocioppo's "Creepy Cuties" at Silver Apple Gallery, PIttsburgh
Announcement for Melissa Ciccocioppo’s “Creepy Cuties”
art installation including comic books, paintings, sculptural collage
Mark 347 “Signs + Symbols” (Oct. 16-31)

Getting there: Silver Apple Gallery is located in front of 255 Main Street in Lawrenceville. It is always “open” (for viewing) but the lights aren’t always on when it’s dark. For happenings and show announcements, follow on Instagram at @silverapplegallery

Writer’s Block: A Poetry Walk on Woodwell Street

handmade letters attached to residential house reading "certain"
One thing is certain: Woodwell Street continues to impress with block-long public art projects

When last we left Woodwell Street—a single long residential block at the north end Squirrel Hill—it was full of bright color. Thin streamers from every point in the rainbow decorated lamp posts and trees like electric shafts of light. House after house, the community art project was a wonderful, safe, deep pandemic way to get out and experience little bursts of joy.

Woodwell Street is at it again, read the email from dedicated streetwalker Lisa Valentino, and she wasn’t kidding. (The block mounted a yarn bombing project between then and now, we’re told, but we missed that one.) Woodwell Street is currently host to an excerpt of Amanda Gorman’s poem “The Hill We Climb,” displayed (mostly) one word at a time, house-by-house, in block letters attached to front porches and dug into flower beds.

The poem, written for and first delivered at the inauguration of President Biden and Vice President Harris, is a call to action. To merge mercy with might and might with right are fabulous words with terrific intention. Walking down Woodwell Street on a blessedly beautiful day like the one we happened to catch is a wonderful experience of community effort, but putting those heady words into action isn’t so easy. Let’s all see what we can do.

handmade letters attached to residential houses reading "but one thing"
But one thing
handmade letters attached to residential house reading "is"
handmade letters attached to residential house reading "certain"
handmade letters attached to residential house reading "if we"
if we
handmade letters attached to residential house reading "merge"
handmade letters attached to residential house reading "mercy"
handmade letters attached to residential house reading "with might"
with might,
handmade letters attached to residential house reading "and"
handmade letters attached to residential house reading "might"
handmade letters attached to residential house reading "with"
handmade letters attached to residential house reading "right"
handmade letters attached to residential house reading "then love"
then love
handmade letters attached to residential house reading "becomes"
handmade letters attached to residential house reading "our"
handmade letters attached to residential house reading "legacy"
handmade letters attached to residential house reading "and"
handmade letters attached to residential house reading "change"
handmade letters attached to residential house reading "our"
handmade letters attached to residential house reading "children's"
handmade letters attached to residential house reading "birthright"