Guest blogger Kirsten Ervin has long watched the evolving window displays of our neighbors in Lawrenceville. For our Easter special, Kirsten takes us for a look around the seasonal offerings on this fine finally-feels-like-Spring holiday weekend.
I have long been intrigued by the window art of Pittsburgh row houses. These are the windows of working class houses in Bloomfield, Lawrenceville and Polish Hill, neighborhoods once dominated by the steel mills.
Here you’ll find tableaus of religious figures mixed with cartoon characters, stuffed animals, kids artwork and Steeler fandom. It’s common to see Jesus and Mary mingling with cheerful trolls and frogs, nestled up to Andre Fleury and Sidney Crosby.
These shadow boxes face the street, on display for the pedestrian, giving a glimpse into those who live inside. “We love spring!” declares one, or “We are faithful!” shouts another, or even, “We haven’t given a shit about anything since Halloween!” says a third.
They remind me of the assemblages of Joseph Cornell, that solitary American artist of the mid century, who created achingly beautiful, surreal arrangements while living in Queens and eating most of his meals at the automat.
What happens when objects are placed under glass in a box? Do the contents seem more precious, more significant? One is reminded of religious shrines of course, and the powerful combination of color, glass and light, framed.
For the viewer of Pittsburgh window art, another dimension exists, the reflection of the opposite side of the street. Add the layered images of branches, other houses, street signs, and electrical lines, and the tableau shifts again.
It is touching to recall that one of Joseph Cornell’s last exhibitions was created especially for children, his boxes hung at child-friendly height, with cake and soda at the reception. Here too, is everyday art, meant for the everyday spectator, a chance to show the passerby who you are and what you care about.
Photos and text by Kirsten Ervin.