A Community of Color

Not many groups of people in the city are more prepared to hear words of doom than this group of artists. It fits their art as much has it fits their psyche’s.

James Heimer

James Heimer

Of all of the art spaces in the city there may not be one as in touch with their own mortality and the possibility of change in the worst way. For this group of artists at Phantom Hand, change came last week essentially in the form of an eviction notice. Sam Heimer explains…

So the run is at an end. A few weeks after getting an extension that merited much celebration, a stroke of bad luck and fate comes through and wipes it all away. Although it seems any news to this group is a reason to celebrate, so the smiles were out and it was a sight to see. Almost all of the artists showing had piled in, in part I’m sure after hearing the

Sam Heimer

Sam Heimer

news. But there was much to celebrate as the past few months for them have been a wild ride. “Phantom Hand was the best thing ever in Philadelphia and no one will ever get to experience a better place. Complete with mental water slides and emotional ball pits, every show they ever had was the best thing I ever saw,” said Jeff Daniels, who was showing some new Jason Voorhees art. “Imagine a brightly lit white walled room with a bunch of the friendliest weirdos in the city all having a drink and chatting about the funny stuff on the walls. The themes of the shows were always great, like the mythology and gods show. I didn’t see any boring still life’s of bowls of fruit at phantom hand. Nope.”

Jeff Daniels

Jeff Daniels.”

Well it would seem the great run is at an end. Although Arts on South is trying to find them a new space so they can finish their extension, head honcho Sam Heimer is skeptical about the amount of work it would take to move the art. But others who are willing to put the work in are not so down. Doom and gloom, aside there was new art on the walls and plenty of people to talk to, ( I recommend Robb Leef if you want to exercise your noodle).

The new show was a spring cleaning show. So everybody brought out a few things and filled the room with their more colorful version of cheer. There was probably a little too much beer to go around but in the end it worked in my favor as I was the lucky guy who got to do the group picture of all these characters, missing a few heavy weights but quite a group nonetheless. And also like just Phantom Hand, its filled with originals. Hopefully everything works out for this cast of characters. Most

Robb Leef

Rob Leef

seem to be finding a way to stay alive through odd commissions and long hours. But one thing is for certain that they certainly would rather be showing their art on South Street. The book is not closed yet but the string of luck may have come up short. Either way its been a crazy few months for the ones who worked there and the contributing artists. It was a true community that hopefully will spawn another chapter. This may be the end but there’s a chance that is just the beginning of something much larger.


The Gang

The Gang

Greg pizzoli

Greg Pizzoli


Moo Noo: Plastopia

Coming to Phantom Hand on Cinco de Mayo, local artist Moo Noo has a solo show called Plastopia. The show will feature a ton of new art.  A type of art Moo Noo has been working on for a while, perfecting the style in which he alternates between layers of plastic and paint, and of course fire. “Conceptually its all about the ocean and how there’s all this plastic in it. And the process in which this substance that nature can not naturally digest, gets into the bio system, and with the suns UV rays, it breaks down on a molecular level. . . ultimately its about that”.

Come out on May 5th to Phantom Hand on 604 South Street Philadelphia, and see a bunch of really psychadelic new stuff. And of course some art from the previous shows. Check out the video below, where Moo Noo is working on some pieces for the show and trying not to inhale too much burning plastic.

The music is one of the many songs he listened to while seeking inspiration and creating. Dâm-Funk – Brookside Park.

Alex Ekman-Lawn; Spires and Flying Buttresses



Alex Ekman-Lawn is a young illustrator from Philadelphia, where he graduated from The University of the Arts. He has done work for a number of local bands and his work is published in Awakening, a gruesome graphic novel. And he is currently showing at Phantom Hand Gallery on South Street. His biting illustrations and dense apocalyptic city scapes are a sharp and tangled look on some of our organic and artificial surroundings. The human body in degrees of disintegration. At the feet of our concrete humanity or the throes of time and our mortal coil. Here I talk with Alex about his take on the awesome stuff he does. Click on his fantastic images.

Where did your journey with art start?

I liked drawing since i was a little kid, I was real into comic books, and then I kinda got out of that for a long time. Like 8 years, and it wasn’t until, well it was an accident basically, but this dude kinda had to beg me. Which makes me sound like an egotistical asshole. But he had to convince me to do sequential pages, and now I’m back in it, comics are my career.

What is it like to go to school for art?

First its like turning a hobby into something you have to do, you know. So there is like a small part of that, that really sucks, and you don’t know what to

do any more. That thing you used to love doing in your personal time is what you have to do all the time. There was definitely a year or so where I was struggling with how to make myself still like it and not get all burnt out on art.

How does Philadelphia affect your art?

Well it literally affects my art, because I use a lot of photos in my stuff, so there are pictures of Philadelphia in most of what I do. And that’s actually a big part of my art in general. I want the place that I live and the space that I occupy to be a part of what I do. Not metaphorically, but literally.

Would you call your art dark? 

Yeah, I think i have to. Its weird, I remember the first time I got that question. “Why is your art so dark”. It’s not really intentional. Its sort of a cop out answer, but its sort of just how I see shit. . .Even when I’m trying to be kinda cheerful it doesn’t really work out that way. As for why. . . it’s probably going to take years of therapy to figure out.

Do you ever listen to music while you create?

Totally. Well, a lot of my jobs are for bands. So in that case I have to listen, I want to listen to the music that the band makes, so I can get a feel for it. I listen to a lot of metal, and I think you can totally tell. Actually in school, when I was learning how I wanted to work, the project that got me really excited about, or where I found the voice I wanted to use, If that’s not too art speak. Was this project where you draw a song. I just listened to 30 songs I liked, and made a piece about what I thought it would look like.

When you do the human form, you seem drawn to a certain type of poses or expressions. Where does that come from?

I don’t know a hundred percent, but some of it is just influences you know, the dudes that I’m just into. Like I was really into Derek Hess freshman year of college. He did all those show posters, I know you’ve seen them. And he did that Converge album with the angel head getting gripped by a hand. I like Ashley Wood, and Phil Hale and Jacob Bannon. Like conflicted poses. Phil Hale painted a lot of dudes punching robots, which sounds stupid but, just figures in motion. Some of it’s coming from that. But beyond that I think I just wanted. . . and we’re bordering on the embarrassing here, but its like, I want figures to look like they’re fighting through something. The figure at rest is totally boring to me. So I want somebody who is in the middle of some shit.

What does digital art do for you?

There are no mistakes.You can always undo something. In that way its exciting and you have all the control you want, but its also like, you can do anything. So its like hard to make decisions. But the nice part of it is I can just throw as much stuff together as I want. Its an infinite database. . .Who doesn’t like 100 things to look at. I’m just trying to make art that my own eyes are interested in.

When you look for buildings what do you look for?

I don’t know shit about architecture. But I think I like Gothic architecture. Its like the most metal architecture. It’s all over the top, crazy spires, and flying buttresses and stuff. Its ornate, pointy, kind of evil looking. I wasn’t raised with religion at all, so churches to me just look like the craziest evil building. But beyond that I’m just looking for shapes I like. And Philly has tons of old architecture. Arches and pillars. Actual legit old architecture that looks nice. I do like modern architecture, but I think its just less exciting to me.

What is your masterpiece?

I don’t know man. It’s hard for me to even choose even a kind of thing. I have album artwork I do, and comic book stuff, and weird collages of old documents and stuff. For me that’s like asking someone what your favorite color when your older. There’s too much. I like them all! Hopefully my masterpiece is the thing I’m working on right now. I’ll wait til I’m dead and someone else can tell me.

Check out some more of Alex Ekman Lawn’s work at Alexekmanlawn.com

And below for more of his piece’s

after we're gone

after we're gone


dead of night

dead of night

Neon Guide

Phantom Hand; Evil Gods and False Idols

The latest Phantom Hand show, called Mythology and the Forgotten Gods, brought a full wall of new art to the gallery. The group show was curated by mythology and creature enthusiast Anthony Pedro. There were new pieces by Jeffro Kilpatrick, Jeff Daniels, Mike BukowskiJeanne D’Angelo, and the fantasy stylings of genre master John Moriarty.

Jeanne D'angelo

Jeanne D'angelo

The show coincided with the news from the  Arts on South program that the gallery was going to get an extension for another four months of art. So the mood was up all around.  “We got extended, yeah,” said Moo Noo, artist and Phantom associate. “It’s awesome, we’ll ride the summer, try to make this summer really great, Armageddon may or may not happen, its gonna heat up, people are gonna be walking around. We might as well have a great place to show art.”

Anthony Pedro

Anthony Pedro and friend

Even the cheer got to Shawn Hileman, founding member of Masthead Print Shop and Gallery who gave a few prints away, including giving me the “I Want to Have Adventures With You” piece I had in last weeks post on the Masthead Vice Show slideshow. I had my eye on it. What a guy.

The show went well, thanks to the great Friday night foot traffic. I would tell you how much but the thanks to the faulty clicker skills of Fred Grabosky the numbers were all off. “It definitely went as I expected” said Anthony Pedro. “It was a beautiful Friday night, and there was a lot of quality art up, so I knew a lot of people were going to come through.”

The room is set up so that the new show is by the door and in the back there are the remnants of the other shows, and thanks to the majority of them being prints, there is no

The new mythology themed wall.

The new mythology themed wall with cyclops

bottom to the barrel. But the room this time around was Anthony Pedro’s , and he caught some flack for having all the pictures lining up at the top, except for one lonely Cyclops by Christian “Patch” Patchell. ” It was something I just wanted to do different, I was going for the straight across and then the Cyclops honestly, see how its got kinda just a half a body, its all the way up there so I was thinking that it’s a tall Cyclops. It’s like the head, the body, then the feet.” Personal preferences aside everything went well, and the future is going to be filled with art. “Everybody has networked, we all know each other, so you get to know more of the city crew,” said Moo Noo It’s like this guy is at this gallery, this guy shows at that gallery. It really makes everything more cohesive, it becomes more of a community when everybody comes here and gets together.”

Check out the sights from the show:

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most prints are from the new show but a few were too good to not pass along.

Artist Profile: Jeff Daniels, Cheeseburger Connoisseur, Emphatic Visuals Enthusiast

Jeff Daniels is a local artist currently living in Fishtown. He studied digital illustration at the University of the Arts. He is showing some of his art at Phantom Hand and you can Jeff find his projects here; art and music at Blackest Lava, or the Blackest facebook, or his band Burden. He loves goofy movies a bit of horror and of course cheeseburgers. That we know, now to learn a little more. I tried going a little farther into Jeff’s head, so we had a little cheeseburger party and played hot potato with his brain.

Q and A

Have you always had a fixation with dark movies or scary figures.

Jeff: Honestly, without getting too dark, I’ve always liked horror movies and things like that. Even ones that were super creepy, like when i was a kid I saw Steven King’s IT and thought it was the coolest thing ever. And then I never really cared about horror or that type of thing until I got older. I guess I’m such an extremist, that when it comes to everything its like. . . serious contrast. I either tend to be super happy bright individual or I can’t find a an in between point. I feel like I use a good amount of energy trying to be polite and friendly all day long and then the rest of it gets turned into frustration or anger, so I try to funnel it into something positive instead of hatefulness or bullshit.

Do you ever just start without an idea of what you are painting. What is your process like?

Jeff: All the time, it usually starts with when im gessoing the canvas. I don’t always have gesso, I usually use white acrylic or black, if I don’t I could give a fuck what color it’d be. And then I go all out with swirlies and twirls. Half the time it’s just a fun part of the process to just start gessoing, and then halfway through you can get an idea of whats going to Imagehappen. It’s not like I always know where it’s going to go.

Did you take any field trips to museums or had a favorite artist when you were little, or even older.

Jeff: I can’t think of any field trips or certain artists. I didn’t even understand what art was, I don’t even know what art is now. But I liked motorcycles and going to the circus to see the guys in the globe of death, that was my favorite obsession as a kid. And aquariums and whales. Well, like. . . visually impressive things that made you gasp. Just as a kid the thing I always grew up with was like I could give a fuck about what that guy splattered on a canvas, that guy just drove a motorcycle in a goddamn circle and didn’t kill his brothers, and italian cousins. The Floritini Brothers, the motorcycle dare devils. And then to go along with it the posters that those guys would be on was mind-numbingly awesome. It just shut me down with, “I can’t think of anything better than that”. Evil Knievel meets the Ninja Turtles meets Spiderman. I was always floating around with little boy ideas of what was cool.

On subject matter

Jeff: This shit that im not trying to make good, it’s like I’m busy in my mind appreciating something, I happen to have these things in my hand, and now all of a sudden I‘m making something that everyone else is telling me is better than my other things. And I don’t really see why, it’s all the same to me. But it’s always when I’m appreciating something. When I’m like aw man Star Wars is the best ever, and I’m sitting doodling thinking how good it is and then I end up with an awesome Chewbacca face. It just happened because the lines were there because my mind was there already. Without forcing it. I guess I never really start doing something like “I’m going to do this”. It all just happens and before I realize what I’m making its made. . . And then I wake up naked and there’s a bloody deer next to me.

On art for an audience

Jeff: I’m always trying to think of what satisfies me, that’s the reason I make anything. But I always try to err on the side of what would be popular, I think. Then there’s always this punk rock attitude that  jumps in and goes nah fuck that, and then rip it up and poop on it and then frame that and tell people that this is what I really meant to make. There’s levels of bullshit, there’s levels of just, not being alright with a lot of this shit. You know, just painting stuff because I know that it will make money  and sell. I don’t want to work down to anyone so I can make a couple bucks. But satisfying myself always is like, kind’ve selfish. So I’m trying to meet in the middle sometimes. Some days I go all the way the other way, some days I could give a fuck. And I think it shows when you look at my art. Some of it satisfies the masses, and the rest of it they wouldn’t even come close to looking at that, it’s too creepy.

What does using digital illustration work do for you as a medium?

Jeff: It’s like collaging stuff with the ability to do transparencies and a lot of it is the ability to draw lines that are straighter and sharper than I could ever draw. You can make duplicates of things. I feel like I can do whatever I want in one form or another in Photoshop, you know, we could time travel if we wanted in Photoshop, put some dinosaurs behind us. Anything is doable there, it’s a cool format to always have on your side,even if you are cutting things out to collage you always have control of the image that way. And I guess that’s what I get out of that. I just have total control. I like to do things with smaller images that have lots of expression and Photoshop allows me to zoom in on those, blow them up , crop them out, and narrow down what you want a painting to be like. Like for Rodney Dangerfield (after the jump) that was a shot from one of his movies, I just screen grabbed it, zoomed in like crazy , and now I have good reference material to get a good face.

Why the obsession with Cheese Burgers? ( He is showing  some burger art at Phantom Hand, and is just a plain burgerhead )

Jeff: They’re the best thing ever. . . I’ll go on for hours about burgers. If someone was going to ask me the most important part to making a great burger. It would have to be the proportion of everything to everything else. These people they do these quadruple damn burgers and these half pound burgers, these pound burgers. Get out of here… I want to eat a layer of meat, a layer of cheese, a layer of veggies, a layer of sauce, and a layer of bread , Come on.

Also… Jeff’s computer broke in the middle of the interview and everything may be completely different from now on in his life. Especially with having to spend all his remaining breath finding the dick at the tech support center that tried to rip his soul out through the phone.


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Arts on South Project Gives Philly Artists Space to Grow

         The Arts on South project is a program that loans unrented stores to local artists to help show their artwork. They have a myriad of projects , including a writers workshop, a few galleries and a skill share cycling space called The Bikery, with community service projects, bike art and sometimes music. “ Ideally , Arts on South is not about helping a certain type of art, but wanting to help disenfranchised artists. The gallery scene can be hard to get into,” said Amanda Cameron, Arts on South coordinator. The program is a project of Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens, started by award winning mural artist Isaiah Zagar.

          Art in Philadelphia is exploding on walls and clothes and arms and legs all over the city. Most every place has a group of people who dedicate much of their waking existence to creating works of color and shape. But the difference is if these artists have a place where they go beyond their circles and reach an audience that clamors for it. Like many cities, Philadelphia has a young vibrant collection of artists with full portfolios and time to kill. Depending on their ability to show their work, they will either create in seclusion or be apart of a community that could almost exist alone through sheer will. With Arts on South they don’t have to start from scratch.

           The Arts on South program provides spaces for the best bid on how to use the space. The winning bid gets to put their plan in motion, usually culminating in a new space for local artists to not just show, but sell their art.  Phantom Hand, a gallery on South Street, shows the art, and  because the art there are prints or illustrations, they can be sold at a small price. Not only getting artists exposure, but putting it in people homes. “ The prints are great because they are affordable”, says Phantom Hand artist and gallery hand Anthony Pedro. “Someone can come in and actually leave with something, its surprising who is into it”.

           The program caters to a common sense idea: empty space should be filled with art. “ Non-traditional art spaces are important.” Said Cameron. With many schools cutting art budgets and putting more attention in the classroom elsewhere. Arts on South helps provide opportunities for young students. A non-profit organization staffed by volunteers, educators, writers and film makers, called the Mighty Writers. They help kids in workshops, lessons and writing programs, including one-on-one time with instructors.

        As much as it is difficult time for some, educators and artists are finding time and support for some of their more important projects. “Philly has a very supportive art scene that I didn’t see in Boston or LA,” said Cameron. “Its a young, working class art scene. Cost of living has a lot to do with it. Here people really get to push their art.” Sadly in many major cities there are empty spaces, and there is no lack of people willing to fill it with their ideas of powerful or informative art. Hopefully in the future people can utilize unrented spaces like Arts on South has and will. Because wherever there are people and paint, wall space is always coveted.

Q and A with Jeffro Kilpatrick: Philly Cartoonist Extraordinaire

While at Phantom Hand I got a chance to rub elbows with a few great artists. Some are so damn nice that further looks into their art are not only on the way but going to be really fun. One of these artists is Fishtown Cartoonist Jeffro Kilpatrick, whose blog is simply a must. I got to interview Jeffro but seeing as I was not incredibly knowledgeable on his art its a little stale. I would not even been close to having the opportunity if it wasn’t for a tip from one of his blog followers, a friend of mine in New Zealand, who so conveniently was at the tip of my fingers. Jeffro is the co-founder of the Philadelphia Cartoonist Society and Author of Dirtballs in Love and a few volumes of Sketches of  Fishtown, explained in a video here. Thoughtful comics highlighting the brighter sides of Fishtown.

Interview and pictures after the jump…

Check out Jeffro’s page here..

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Phantom Hand Opening: Artificial Dissemination 2

Last Friday I had the pleasure of going to the Phantom Hand: Artificial Dissemination 2 Opening; Propaganda to Popaganda. And I can truly say that it was a pleasure. Phantom Hand is a Gallery at 604 South Street, Philadelphia, a space provided by the Arts on South program, something I hope to bring you more on in the future. The walls were lined with all different kinds of prints, skateboards, paintings and shirts. A certain type of no-holds-barred art. Artists with a certain type of toe on the precipice flair. A new kind of art made by new kind of people, people that don’t travel to the edge of their art as much as live there. The kind of stuff you don’t find in a museum, but that will be there as we grow old. It not so much predicated on the past as it is a product of the here and now. The frustrations of today, the technologies, the tastes of failure as much as the taste of success. So is the plight of the artist. But one must mark the differences between these artists and the ones 20 years before. The images that flash before these artists eyes are more varied than any before them. Such is the times.


Here’s some art from the over-stimulated minds at Phantom Hand, or Ghost Foot as it’s affectionately called by some of it’s inhabitants.

More after the jump… Pictures courtesy of Phantomhand.blogspot.com <—–Click for more


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Alright, hello, my name is Nick Russo, and I’m in the business of documenting happenings. It turns out that I’ve run face first into art all my life… It’s been a journey finding what I want in it, and Im finally at my destination. I will fill this space with the most free-form interviews, profiles of painters, illustrators and printmakers, street colors, gallery events, medium explorations, and even some art of my own, maybe. My mission is to bring you this kind of colorful brooding art that is trying to explode in the greater Philadelphia area and beyond. I will try to put aside any urges to hoard knowledge of these awesome creations. I would elaborate, but I guess you will just have to come back…

Coming soon. . .  A recap of the Phantom Hand: Artificial Dissemination 2 Opening, and the oddest of interviews with Philly Cartoonist Jeffro Kilpatrick. Cheeseburger talk with artist Jeff Daniels, and animal studies with camel wrangler and zoology enthusiast Anthony Pedro .