Sep 8

Whistling Down Wissahickon with Artist David Guinn

by: Carly Rapaport-Stein

Artist David Guinn took time to chat with us about his style, his process, and his inspirations for the cool new art popping up around Philadelphia. Read on for his thoughts, then join us to dedicate Wissahickon on September 10!

Carly: Tell me a little bit about you and your artistic style.

David: I grew up in Philly, and I have painted murals here for 18 years, both at Mural Arts and with other arts organizations. I approach my work as a painter would a canvas, thinking, “What would I most want to see on this wall, what would inspire me?”  I do a lot of research on the site and on the neighborhood so that what I propose resonates with the people who will live with the mural. My style has evolved over the years but I think what connects all of my work is the basic goal to create intimate personal spaces on the enormous canvasses that you work with a mural painter.

 

  • The Electric Street © David Guinn. Photo by Steve Weinik.

  • The Electric Street © David Guinn. Photo by Steve Weinik.

  • The Electric Street © David Guinn. Photo by Steve Weinik.

Carly: You’re fresh off the beautiful Percy Street mural, The Electric Street. Can you talk about the intersection of place and art in your work?

David: I studied architecture in college and it informs my approach to mural painting. I always think about the site and how the mural works with the larger physical and social context at the site. At the Wissahickon mural, we have a wall that thousands of people see everyday from the Schuylkill Expressway, but if you had asked me, a lifelong Philadelphian, where the Wissahickon neighborhood was, I couldn’t have told you. So the mission of this mural was to identify the neighborhood at a distance, and at the same time create a detailed work of art that resonated with the people that use the train station and spoke to what is great about the neighborhood.

I also loved the mural application from Sara Sequin and Janis Chakars – their excitement made me excited about the project. They wanted something contemporary for the train station that was still rooted in the specifics of the neighborhood. I began by making a big wavy brushstroke that symbolizes the path of the Wissahickon creek. In the spaces that that created, I placed scenes from the neighborhood, including the original train station, no longer standing, that was designed by Frank Furness.

What would I most want to see on this wall, what would inspire me?

- David Guinn

Carly: How do you think about community engagement on a project like this, where the community is mostly in transit?

David: The design was informed by a series of community meetings. It’s a tight neighborhood and it was great to work with a group of people who were really excited about a mural coming to the neighborhood. We painted the mural directly on the wall, so people getting on and off the train had a chance to see the process and get to know me and two great assistants, Marah Carpenter and Josh Smith. And we really got to know some of the SEPTA employees, who probably see this up close as much as anyone.

Carly: So what’s the next project you’re excited about?

David: I’ll be having a show of paintings and a wall painting installation at Marginal Utility Gallery opening on First Friday, November 4th. 

Carly: Sounds great. Thanks again, David!

 

  • Wissahickon (in progress) © Mural Arts Philadelphia / David Guinn. Photo by Steve Weinik.

  • Wissahickon (detail) © Mural Arts Philadelphia / David Guinn. Photo by Steve Weinik.

  • Wissahickon (detail) © Mural Arts Philadelphia / David Guinn. Photo by Steve Weinik.

Last updated: Sep 8, 2016

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