Zoe Strauss.. The Billboard Project

18 Jan

If you havent heard of Zoe Strauss its high time that you come up to speed. Zoe has made more art in the last 10 years than most artists make in a life time. Zoe is a native Philadelphian who has documented the personal lives of a number of  people who represent the grittier side of the daily struggle of living. Her compassion for her subjects is moving and poignant. The bittersweet reality of those we often scurry past when encountered on the street. Ms. Strauss has an eye for beauty in the most mundane and at times repulsive objects, a stained mattress becomes a beautiful brocade , a faded peeling wall can turn into an italian  fresco through her lens. Nothing in daily life goes unnoticed, her ironic photos of signage and verbal dichotomies are entertaining and deeply disturbing at times are some of my personal favorites.

Her art is “greed free”socially concious and very public. Ten years ago Zoe chose a stretch of I-95 as her yearly exhibition space. To the support columns beneath the highway she glued her photos. What better display for her urban documentaries. Her annual show in May became a “must-see” among the Philadelphia art crowd and had a great deal to do with her recognition as an artist of importance. I never missed the event. Zoe made her prints available at five dollars and allowed the viewers to remove their favorites for free at the close of the show, further proof that her art is for everyone.

Last week the Philadelphia Museum of Art opened her exhibition Zoe Strauss: Ten years, a mid-career retrospect of her I-95 work. A crowning achievement for the “south philly” resident, Strauss has brought a sense of artistic relevance and pride to Philadelphia. A city that too often is known for less lofty reasons. There in lies the irony in Zoe’s work, the love for her city, for better or worse, are expressed through her compassion and understanding of all walks of life. The cruel and tragic realities of urban life are a fact, all too often hidden from public view. Zoe has broken through our prejudices to expose the commonality of our lives. In that she has brought real meaning to our reputation as the “City of Brotherly Love” Thank you Zoe

Her latest endeavor The Billboard Project holds a mirror in front of  Philadelphia’s citizens. On billboard throughout the city are Ms Strauss’s work, some drawn from her Ten year project. Here we are, stripped of illusion, this is who we are Philadelphia. Only when we accept others as they are,without judgment can we pull together for the betterment of us all.

The PMA exhibition and the Billboard Project running simultaneously is an artistic coup of major importance. Be proud Philadelphia that we have Zoe.

Heres the Link to photos of  Billboard Project    http://www.flickr.com/photos/46725052@N00/sets/72157628902852703/

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