Dreaming and living in full color

The Locks Gallery presents Sarah McEneaney’s When You Wish

2 minute read
Sarah McEneaney's 'Hunters, Gatherers.' (Photo courtesy of the Locks Gallery)
Sarah McEneaney's 'Hunters, Gatherers.' (Photo courtesy of the Locks Gallery)

What is the unique quality that defines a great work of art? Does it, according to Bernard Berenson, give us a heightened awareness of life? Or is it so "out" that it defines the new "in?” Sarah McEneaney's paintings, now on view at the Locks Gallery, fill both these definitions.

Recent paintings of egg tempera and her newest medium, acrylic paint, create a world you can enter, and it is magical. In an era of art created as non-objectively as possible, McEneaney opens her daily life to us. We become participants and, by some magic, feel as if we are there. We’re living, breathing, sharing the development of the Reading Viaduct, the crosstown views from the artist's windows and the cares and concerns about the numerous cats and dogs she houses. She admits you to her world; enter if you care.

Born in 1955, Philadelphia artist McEneaney and her paintings have never conformed to the post-abstract-expressionist New York mantra. She is a narrative artist who invites you into her world. Because of that, she has emerged in the 21st century as a new voice in the wilderness. Let all artists take note: follow your own visions, not this year's winner in the New York art market.

Painting change

The paintings feel spontaneous, as if they are candid shots of non-events in someone's daily life. She and her multiple domestic animals often are parts of the scene, seemingly extraneous. At first, you notice the paint spattered on the floor and some disorder. Then the magic happens: you enter her world.

Hunters, Gatherers, 2016, acrylic on wood, shows McEneaney entering her walled garden, laden with plastic shopping bags, her pets waiting to greet her. You feel the slight breeze from the overhanging tree limbs and sense her relief at, finally, arriving home. Paintings of her studio and office seem spontaneous, as though a camera were snapping candid pictures of her in her daily routine.

The artist, a liberal activist all her adult life, has been an early and foremost advocate of the proposed Reading Viaduct Rail Park, utilizing an abandoned rail site for urbanites to walk, run and just enjoy a world of fresh air and sunshine above the exhaust fumes and ruckus of daily traffic. Her two great urban landscape paintings, When You Wish, 2015, and Trestletown from the Wolf, 2016, open her vision and dreams to us. We are there with the artist, wishing and hoping for the best.

This exhibition opens doors and dreams. Take advantage of it. You, too, can help to change the world. It is worth it.

What, When, Where

When You Wish. Through Oct. 8, 2016 at the Locks Gallery, 600 Washington Square., Philadelphia. (215) 629-1000 or

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