Philadelphia artist Sarah McEneaney describes her work as "totally and purposefully autobiographical" yet they are "edited, embellished, and fantasized." They function as a visual diary and tell her stories and moments in her life that include self-portraits, her home and studio, beloved pets, travels, and her life in Philadelphia. And a large part of McEneaney's life has been dedicated to community activism for her longtime neighborhood known as Trestletown – an inner-city area named after and defined by a now abandoned elevated rail line once used by the Reading Railroad.
For more than 10 years, McEneaney has worked to transform and revitalize the unused line into what is called The Rail Park, a project like New York City's acclaimed High Line.
"The Rail Park has three sections: the Viaduct, the Cut, and the Tunnel. Three miles, all told. 10 neighborhoods. 50 city blocks. It all stands on the unused tracks of the old Reading Railroad, connecting Fairmount Park to Center City, running from Brewerytown to the Northern Liberties. The Rail Park will be a green space, a gathering space, and a public space for all." therailpark.org
A large part of McEneaney's paintings over the last decade focus on the first phase of the park the Viaduct. Philadelphia painter Daniel Gerwin wrote of two paintings from this series, "Trestletown, 10th and Hamilton, 10th Floor and Trestletown, North from Goldtex are tours de force of cityscape painting, and their titles identify the vantage points she used to figure out each drawing. Both paintings are accurate, lovingly detailed portrayals of her neighborhood that hum with bold color and geometry. To get the most out of the flat shapes of the city plan, McEneaney never paints cars on the streets, allowing roads to function as uninterrupted lines carving the urban scene into delightful triangles and rectangles."
McEneaney's art and her life are inseparable. Each informs the other. Her paintings and her dedication to Philadelphia are gifts to all of us.
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