Clue to the Past – Artist as CollectorNanci Hersh
pencil on paper, 21” x 40”
date unknown, c. 1955
This pencil drawing is of my grandparents (left) with my father as a young man (third from left). They’re hard at work behind the counter of the corner grocery they owned and ran for 20+ years in the Lansdowne section of Philadelphia, PA, on Plumstead Avenue, in what was then a predominantly Armenian neighborhood.
The drawing is signed by one William Campbell, who I believe is this fellow: http://tinyurl.com/cycwrfc.
I have never tracked that down for sure – I would love through this blog series to find out more.
I was born after the store closed and so have no personal memories of it. I also did not know my grandparents very well, and for both reasons this drawing is priceless to me. I especially love the chunky, clunky phone, and the brand names on the shelves that have faded into time past: RINSO, MONTCO, DUZ – sitting alongside some that haven’t: TIDE and SPAM.
The relationship between him and my grandparents is a mystery, but I like to think this may have been a commission for a young artist, and I like the way that reverberates with this grocery store eventually evolving into a space for art.
For years, this hung by my father’s desk in the real estate company he owned in western Chester County, PA, and now it hangs at Street Road, the art space my husband and I founded two years ago.
I like to think of these businesses as a kind of chain; an evolution of one family business, shape shifting over time – meat and eggs, a two-bed two-bath, an oil painting… The focus may change but there are many constants, especially the way in which a business is a social nexus and an endless creative possibility.
Emily Artinian, based in Wilmington, DE and Chicago, Illinois makes artist’s books and text based art, primarily exploring literature and storytelling. She is the co-founder and Director of Street Road in Western Chester County, PA, and was until recently a Senior Lecturer at Chelsea College of Art and Design in London where she headed the Contextual Studies / Theory programme for the college’s 400+ Foundation students.