I live and work in the historic Mexican War Streets neighborhood in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Comprised of late 1800 Victorian row houses saved from demolition in the 1970s by a dedicated band of enthusiastic preservationists. The neighborhood and many of the street names were given by General William Robinson, who owned the original tract of land and refer to significant battles and generals from his experiences in the Mexican American War.
Renowned for the architectural detail, materials, and the appealing human scale and charm of the era, The War Streets brings visitors and history lovers from far and wide. Storefront businesses were on nearly every corner, groceries, butcher shops, pharmacies, dry goods, taverns, and professional services provided everything residents needed within easy walking distance. Many storefront details are still in evidence but are now largely residential, or in the case of the building in this painting, an installation art gallery, caught between exhibits.
The neighborhood retains the feel of a walkable small town in the city. What is normally a festive, bustling social atmosphere, with impromptu get-togethers, stoop sitting, sharing wine and laughs and stories is now eerily subdued. The architecture, shuttered and lit by unforgiving light throwing long shadows now suggests isolation, distance, and loneliness in an uncertain world. I’ve been trying to use this time to observe and capture the timeless look and feel of this neighborhood that was here long before me and will certainly be here long after me.
Adding solitary figures seems almost to call attention to the isolation and sense that everyday life is currently far from normal. Most of this current work is digital and painted on an iPad, which also seems to suggest an incongruously modern take on this old neighborhood.