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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Hill District, Gist Street, James Simon

09/25/12 36m
Started early from the Bastille, riding with S.

From the Charm Bracelet Project, the Federal Street railroad UnderPass Gallery displays 3 three *** by Dick Esterle:

Easier to get forgiveness
North Pacific Ave at Kincaid Street in Garfield, the local mascot of the Garfield Gators. This is an unauthorized guerrilla mural, so the subtitle might be, "easier to get forgiveness than permission". Artist prefers anonymity. I've never been up in this section of Garfield before, a lot of rebuilding and development going on and a night/day difference between the legacy buildings and the new buildings.

Stopped at Enrico Biscotti for biscotti and cappuccino. Excellent. Joined the trail to the Convention Center, then rode cross-town to Grant Street and Centre Avenue to go up to the Hill District, which I've never been in before.

Hill District

Got a close look at St. Benedict the Moor Church. I had long been impressed at the figure on top of the church and was under the misunderstanding that it was a representation of Christ, much like the famous statue in Rio de Janeiro. Turns out that the figure is St Benedict the Moor.

I assumed that "Moor" meant the historic Muslim presence across Spain and Portugal, which was (at least) my second error of the day: in this case the phrase the Moor (originally Il Moro in Italian) means The African or The Black, and that presents a whole new perspective.

The man now known as Benedict was a black child of two African slaves, born and raised in Italy. To me, today, it seems like they're we're hiding the nature of the name in obscurity. (I'd like to recognize the potential fallacy of assuming that because I didn't recognize it, it must be cleverly hidden.)

I wonder how the Church, how this Church, would be perceived differently if it were explicitly named Benedict the African. You know that the kids in adjacent parishes would call it 'Benny the Bro'.

According to the Diocesan website, this is the second St. Benedict the Moor in Pittsburgh, the previous one in Uptown having been demolished in 1968. You can learn (or perhaps, unlearn) so much riding around on a bicycle and doing a bit of follow-up.

Hill District Murals

These three murals by George Gist are on the former Granda Theatre on Centre Avenue, across from the police station:

The Hill District was once a major cultural center (until half of it was taken for the Civic Arena development), and places like the Crawford Grill were mainstays in the American jazz scene. This mural at 2037 Centre Avenue by Ashley Hodder remembers the local jazz scene:

Another local mural on Wylie Avenue:

This mural at 2201 Wylie Avenue is "Listening Through Time", by Chris St. Pierre and Jordan Monahan, 2003:

Uptown Artwork

We descended out of the Hill District to the Birmingham Bridge to enter Uptown, and found this sculpture by James Simon at Fifth and Kirkpatrick:

This mural at Forbes and Seneca is called "Open Highway, Open Sky" by Gabe Felice, Oct 2010:

If you want to see public artwork in Pittsburgh and only have one hour, you would be well advised to go to Uptown's Gist Street. Art on Gist Street started with "Baby Kong", a sculpture of the head and hands of King Kong made by James Simon at his 305 Gist Street studio. Kate Bechack added the bananas.

The first mural on Gist Street was Oaxacan Dinner by Jean Foss, 2005:

We were fortunate to meet Mr. James Simon, who explained that the local artists chose to frame their murals to emphasize their status as artwork, equivalent to portraits and other more classic painting formats.

This is artist John Fleenor's work, "Portrait of Antoine", a portrait of long time local Gist Street resident Antoine Lynn, in a style inspired by Renaissance portraiture by artists such as Raphael.

Mexican artist Luis Castellanos Valui painted this mural on the side of the Association of the Deaf's building, which includes sign language (and a bicycle).

Gist Street artist Laura McLaughlin painted "Bicycle Mural" on Fifth Avenue:

Across the street from Bicycle Mural we saw this unattributed artwork:

This 2008 mural, "Urban Paradise" by Gregg Valley, is on the side of a former bank turned into a women's shelter. A staffer explained that the intent was to present a view of a calm oasis without mention of society or other issues; just a calm oasis.

Since we got to meet James Simon, our Uptown segment closes with his mural at Duquesne University:

It's a great mural and it does capture both the university and the community. I'm intrigued by the turtle between the man and the bicycle and I wonder if it's a "turtles all the way down" reference.

Across the street from the sculpture, we saw the mural "Elevate" by Gerard Tonti, June 2010 on Forbes Avenue:

36 miles on a great day of bicycling.

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