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.
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.