Sarah McEneaney’s ‘Trestletown’ at Locks

An artist, a woman and an urban activist

Sarah McEneaney’s self-portraits reveal her vulnerability and sense of communion with Philadelphia, her specific patch of ground and the source of her hopes and dreams.

McEneaney's 'Reading Viaduct': An observer who wants to change her city.

Self-portraiture eliminates the time and expense of hiring a model, but its honesty can be brutal, as she represents herself in glaring objectivity. But, with all this, you are invited into her world. You experience McEneaney’s view of a winter landscape (my favorite) or twilight in her neighborhood. You’re permitted to experience the life of an artist who happens to be a woman living in Philadelphia and envisioning a future positive addition to the urban landscape: Trestletown, the Reading Viaduct project which McEneaney co-founded.

McEneaney’s paintings don’t resemble any other artist’s style. She has found her own voice. You feel as if you’re there, painting in McEneaney’s studio, accompanied by her household pets or being introduced to her dreams.

Because she primarily employs egg tempera on wood panels, McEneaney’s paintings glow with a sense of life. It’s a time-consuming medium, using egg yolks mixed with colors, but it doesn’t deteriorate or change tonality as quickly as oil paint – you could have asked Andrew Wyeth about it or one of the Northern Renaissance masters.


“Rethinking Trestletown,” a panel discussion on the Reading Viaduct, will take place at the Locks Gallery on Thursday, November 21 at 6 p.m. with Sarah McEneaney, City Councilman Mark Squilla, landscape architect Bryan Hanes and Paul Levy, chief executive of the Center City District.

Our readers respond

Patrick D. Hazard

of Weimar, Germany, on November 19, 2013

The proliferation of artistic -isms since the mid-19th Century from artists' fear that science and politics were replacing their and religion's dominance in value formation has led to the esthetic dead ends of the likes of Koons and Warhol. Only rich morons reveal their bottomless ignorance as they make millionaires of kindergarten level "artists." Sarah McEneaney's neighborly esthetic is more persuasive and significant.

Terri Gordon

of Upper Darby, PA on November 26, 2013

Thanks to Anne Fabbri's review of Sarah McEneaney's exhibit at the Locks Gallery, I made it a point to get in there yesterday. I found it an absorbing experience, though sometimes bizarre (what is she doing swinging above railroad tracks, almost daring fate?). And the painting itself, the incredible detail, the basic skill of it all, those strong diagonals pulling the eye through layer after layer of depth on a flat piece of canvas! ! And yet none of it having that facile look that leaves one cold. She generates an emotional response, and it was certainly a "worth the journey" event.
(Plus, I found a great free parking space on Third Street.)

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