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The Art

Narrative Journalism and fine arts have reunited. Inside: David Ohlerking Artists' Second professions The dufala brothers in the gallery

The Art Narrative PILOT ISSUE | APRIL 2012

IN The GALLERIES 4 The Dufala Brothers 6 Melissa Maddonni Haims 8 Mary Page Evans 10 American's legendar craft makers





The ART JOURNAL 14 Let ’em eat Picassos: The new Barnes and the homeless by Robert Zaller 31 Philadelphia's Connection with the Titanic by Steven Yuan THE TALE In THE CITY 20 The Painting that Moves With easel and paints in his car, David Ohlerking drives and paints on the streets of Philadelphia. by Steven Yuan 31 Philadelphia's Connection with the Titanic by Steven Yuan 35 The second professions Artists as exhibition coordinator, goldsmith, bar tenders and homeless. by Steven Yuan CHILDREN's SPOTLIGHT 40 F.A.C.T. Charter School

The Painting that Moves

Steven Yuan


In his life, David Ohlerking has never stopped moving. He went to schools at Philippines, Belgium, and Missouri; became rock musician and painter in Austin, Texas; shifts on the streets in Philadelphia with a car full of colors. Even on his paintings, colors move on their own wills.


AVID OHLERKING opens the trunk of his Ford Crown Victoria. In a grey container, 36 jars of oil paint have their mouths opened with a brush in each of them. Originally, colors snuck out onto the car every time Ohlerking pulled one of the brushes out. Now they have totally invaded the trunk, the rear bumper, and the whole body of the car.

Ohlerking paints by his trunk in Philadelphia for three years. His subjects are buildings that only a few artistic minds will respond to. With years of practicing live portraits, he can pile up all the layers of a 24by-24 painting in 15 minutes. And after that, he will take a picture for it and share the picture on his Facebook page, through which he is friended with more than 3000 people – mainly fans, fellow artists, fans, gallery owners, fans and people who have passed by his Ford and have loved his art at first sights. Now there are two paintings in his trunk,

oil on Masonite, bound face-to-face. Ohlerking removes a pair of clips on one side of the grey container, and the Masonites slip into his hands. He is going to send them to a New York fundraiser hosted by Detlef Schrempf, a retired German NBA star who collects some of his paintings.

Ohlerking walks into a shipping shop. On a table by the window displays some cards marking one of his gallery shows. There is a picture of a painting on one side. In the foreground stands a lush tree of green, a power pole of umber and a house with white walls and black window frames. Behind, another white house fills the turquoise sky. Bold strokes of paint make up the window frames and fill up the house’s interior, each of which stands uninterruptedly against each other. Strokes of white paint that are even bolder surround them. Everything in this painting seems to move; the painter lets the colors decide their boundaries. Spring 2012 The Art Narrative


Ohlerking photographs his painting on Third Street. His car and his easel form an unique urban scene.

boards jump a little, as if they are squirming out of the window.

“Interesting,” he says. He slows his car to watch the scene.

When asked if he would stop and paint for it, he gives a negative. “It’s too fascinating,” he says. “I usually paint dull things.”

Not far from this scene, two men on an aerial lift stop work and watch his motley Ford marching by.


ack on his default place, Ohlerking parked his car across the street to a cafe. He pulls the easel out from the back seat and erects it by his trunk, inside which the color jars opened their mouths for the painter. “Careful you don't spill on your car!” A passer-by says. “Ooops,” Ohlerking responds.

He adapts his current painting techniques under the instruction by Alex Kanevsky, a painter at Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts who is known for freezing movements with an expressionist touch. Ohlerking photographes his painting to feed more than 3000 friends on Facebook.


he major outlets for Ohlerking’s artwork are galleries, bars and cafes in greater Philadelphia area. He has paintings at The Chapman Gallery in Doylestown, Gallery Exquisite in Philadelphia and Just Around The Corner gallery in Easton; a bar in Kensington of Philadelphia has put ten of his framed paintings on its wall since February. In some of the galleries, the price for an Ohlerking’s painting can go as low as $800 and as high as $6,400. Though selling such

a work means at least a month of living is guaranteed, Ohlerking sometimes gives his paintings for free to passers-by who have watched him painting, or charity groups like that of Detlef Schrempf’s. Sometimes party throwers invite Ohlerking to do live portrait in their events. In trade, he gets meals, beers, cups of coffee and some more Facebook friends. If there is no request, Ohlerking drives alone and hunts inspiration on the road. He mostly ends up erecting his easel on one

of the streets in Fishtown, Kensington or Northern Liberties. If still there is no luck, he will drive to his “default” place, somewhere on Third Street between Race and Arch streets, where he chose as his first place to stay in Philadelphia.

Out of the shipping shop, Ohlerking goes on the road again. Some workers are using a hoist to cram a bundle of wooden boards into a second-floor window. Ohlerking gazes at the jaundice-yellow boards swaying under the blue hoist arm. For one moment, the

When Ohlerking saw Kanevsky’s art for the first time, he was living in Austin, Texas. He immediately sent an email to the painter who seldom left Philadelphia. The painter replied by asking David to show him some works so he could critique on them. By this means they became teacher and student, though even now Kanevsky will not allow Ohlerking to call him teacher in person. Kanevsky is also one of the reasons why Ohlerking decided to leave Austin, and eventually to stay in Philadelphia. (Before Philadelphia, he lived in New Jersey and New York City subsequently for a short period of time.) By the time he left Austin, he had become an active figure in the local artistic community, running a project called Austin Figurative Project. Together with AustinSpring 2012 The Art Narrative


delphia’s red bricks one day, but only if his Philly mentor leaves the town.


n addition to his all-in-one studio in his car, Ohlerking has some other working sites. He works on big projects in the basement of Gallery Exquisite. Somewhere else, a former industrial warehouse in Kensington offers him some space to store his paintings and tools. In a room that is about 6 feet wide and 20 feet long, the painter stores 303 paintings – all of them were about Philadelphia except a few done in New Jersey. He also has a studio on the second floor of a cafe called Rocket Cat, a place he used to barter his paintings for coffee and food.

In a room that is about 6 feet wide and 20 feet long, the painter stores more than 300 paintings. Most of them were about Philadelphia.

based painter Chris Chappell, he organized figurative painters to work together and do shows every week.

“He has galvanized the Austin scene of figurative and other painters,” Wayne Alan Brenner of The Austin Chronicle wrote. “[Ohlerking has brought] a DIY sensibility … to jump-start events and conversations and lingering vibe of something’s-going-on-andit’s-good to the often more slackerly pace of local doings.” It was Kanevsky who told Ohlerking to experiment painting as fast as he could. The student tried to finish a portrait in 30 minutes, only to discover that most people could not stay still that long. Therefore he tried

faster and faster until 15 minutes finally worked for both him and his models.

Now, Ohlerking’s journey of painting is within these 15 minutes: Before he starts, he has nothing in mind; when he paints, the only thing he wonders is whether people will like his work. “I don’t have a message,” says Ohlerking. “I am religious. I just want to keep things what God made them look like.”

Painting relentlessly on the streets of Philadelphia, Ohlerking follows a path directed by both Alex Kanevsky and his spiritual world. He says he will never give up painting, though he might consider leaving Phila-

On the corner of this studio, there is a shelf displaying mysterious items like an arms-installed miniature Venus de Milo. Deep inside, a black leather-covered Bible sits on a wooden stand. It used to belong to Ohlerking’s father, who passed away in Africa in 2010.

Born in Omaha, NE, 1962, David Ohlerking had elementary school in the Philippines, high school in Belgium. His parents, Dave and Jean Ohlerking, were Christian missionaries who ran charity groups in these places. In 1992 his father Dave – known by children he cared for as “Pop” – founded an international relief organization called Children’s Cup, feeding and educating children in African countries like Mozambique and Zimbabwe. All of the Ohlerkings became a member of Pop’s team, except for the oldest son, David Ohlerking, who dropped college at Missouri State University to join a progressive metal band called The Awful Truth as singer and guitarist. In 1989 the band released an eponymously-titled album and hit the markets in Korea and Japan. Even though, Ohlerking was never a black sheep boy in his family. “We both enjoy art – he just blew me away at art in general, especially classic art like painting, drawing, playing piano, gui-

tar, etc,” says Dan, the second son of Dave Ohlerking. Dan thinks his brother’s unique way of painting comes part from their shared growing-up experience overseas, part from his own thinking about breaking rules.

“He was the first person anyone I knew had ever seen who had blonde and black semi Mohawk super-long hair in 1984 in Springfield, MO,” Dan recalls. “Maybe that was a clue he'd drive a multicolor painted car.” In Dan’s eyes, his brother, who shares almost every picture of his painting on Facebook, paints not to impress people, but to convey his own view of life through colors.

“I think he cares a lot about doing things right for people and before God,” says Dan. “But he enjoys making people ask themselves what really matters about some ‘rules’ we have made up for ourselves.”


here is some classic music coming softly from the radio.

“Beethoven,” the painter murmurs, tuning the volume up a little bit – still, it wasn’t loud. It is Beethoven’s “Pastoral Symphony.” When it reaches the crescendo, the painter whistles a few notes with it.

The thing that happens next substantiates his cheerful mood: a friend of his at Chapman Gallery tells him on Facebook that a New York clothing designer went there to see his paintings. Knowing Ohlerking from his website, the designer may consider using his paintings for designing clothes. Ohlerking looks over his glasses to read the message closely, and then he reads it the second time. “It’s fascinating! I am so excited!” He blurts out.

And there is nothing more exciting for the painter to know that people like his art. AN Spring 2012 The Art Narrative



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