Although street art is normally executed through similar methods and media – graffiti, wheatpaste posters, even vinyl decals – there a few artists that defy the standard of traditional street art. One of those artists is Katharina Grosse. Grosse is an artist from Germany who specializes in using electrifying and bright colors to beautify public spaces. Through her art, Grosse likes to create experiences, provoke thought, and – most importantly – tell stories.
Grosse’s most notable works are ones through which she beautifies public spaces either via sculpture installations or by using her unique painting method. Grosse uses an industrial paint gun to paint public eyesores (she uses this paint gun because it can cover a large area of space easily; plus, it’s uncommon).
Philadelphia Mural Arts got wind of Grosse’s work in 2014 and connected with her in the hope that she’d agree to work with them to conquer an extremely hard task: turning Philadelphia’s regional rail line into a “voyage of the imagination.”
If you know anything about the regional rail lines that run through Philadelphia and the surrounding areas, you know how hard of a task this truly was. We’re talking vacant properties that are decaying, dying trees, weeds, and, honestly, not much else.
The project took months to install and a full staff to help create. Grosse used bright neon colors like orange, green, and pink to cover areas of the landscape along the Chestnut Hill West regional rail line. The natural landscape was covered completely in other areas, and buildings were blanketed with white and orange.
Her use of bright colors was not at random. Said Grosse, “I need the brilliance of color to get close to people, to stir up a sense of life experience and heighten their sense of presence.”
Since most of the paint covered natural landscapes, the installation was never meant to be permanent. As the environment evolved, so would the art. As Philadelphia Mural Arts put it, “Think of it as a real-time landscape painting, where the ever-evolving city is the canvas and your window is the frame.”
This evolution was an important part of the process, and had the added benefit of motivating people to rush to go and see it. On the opening day of the installation, hundreds of people got on regional rail trains to check it out. You heard that right: over 300 people got on a SEPTA train (willingly) just to go and see this installation, and the feedback was amazing. People loved it.
Unfortunately, most of the installation is no longer intact because of the growing environment it was painted on, but parts are is still visible between 30th Street and North Philadelphia stations via regional rail and Amtrak. If you’re feeling adventurous, it’s definitely worth the cost of a ticket.
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