I arrived in Philadelphia in November 1986. I rented a second floor studio at 1817 North 5th Street from February 1987 through to October 1998. My wife Martha and I would always rent a separate living space in other sections of the city. At that time that stretch of North Philly was quasi-industrial and relatively barren; consequently, there wasn’t a lot of human interaction. When I would employ models to draw or sculpt from, I wouldn’t hear conversations entering from the outside world, just traffic. The isolation of the second floor in that neighborhood removed me from the world.
In 1998 we bought a two story, corner row house in South Philly, large enough to contain both living and working space. It took several months of renovation but we got the house to a move-in condition in January of 1999, with my studio occupying the basement and most of the first floor. The kitchen is also on the first floor with rest of living space on the floor.
In 2000 I started a new series of sculptures and began to hire models again. It was quite a shock to me when I was working from a model in my studio and I heard a neighborhood conversation taking place right outside the wall of the house! All of a sudden I felt vulnerable for myself and the model. The strangers felt so close, as though they could come through the brick wall which separated us at any moment. It took a while to get used to the physical intimacy of the new neighborhood.
After several months passed, the neighborhood kids began to suspect something was ‘happening’ in that corner house with ‘that guy’ who was ‘always there and didn’t have a job.’ I was also freelancing out my studio. They would observe, ‘he has all these different women and men going in and out of his house, doing what?’ At some point someone informed them that ‘those people’ would be naked in front me! That summer I was working from a model named Michelle who would pose for me in the evenings after her 9-5 office job. During breaks she would sit on my front stoop and smoke a cigarette. One evening she was taking her customary indulgence and was approached by a couple of the kids. One of them asked ‘Do you know what he does in there?’ Still sitting, she took a drag from her cigarette, commenced a long exhale, turned her head to face them, and unperturbed replied “I do.”