June 2001


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Written by
Kris Mamula

Cathedral in View

Featuring paintings of the Cathedral of Learniing from artist Félix de la Concha's collection One a Day

Save for one shadowy figure, there are no people in Félix de la Concha’s city. And yet breakfast dishes clatter in jammed coffee shops, dumpsters slam in alleys, and hillside streets are lined with row houses—beige, lime-green, and white, some sprouting dish antennas.

Here is a city of breezy front porches and apartment-building fire escapes, searing sodium vapor streetlights, and traffic lights—green and red. Here are sun-washed streets, fog-choked streets, streets ankle deep in gray slush, streets alive with commerce and education and worship and leisure. Here is Pittsburgh.

Over two years, the 38-year-old Spanish artist captured 365 Pittsburgh scenes, each with a view of the Cathedral of Learning. In some paintings, the Cathedral is little more than a brown smudge. In others, giant yellow traffic signs trumpet the building’s regal, neo-Gothic bearing. Never entirely unobstructed, de la Concha’s Cathedral is carefully sewn into the very fabric of urban life. And that is precisely what he intended.

Think of the paintings as a sort of dialogue between the city and the Gothic 42-story building, says de la Concha, who painted in every kind of weather and season. “You want to speak with someone, not just when you agree with them,” he adds. In fact, so intent was he on capturing the gamut of “conversations” between city and skyscraper that he sometimes mounted an umbrella on his easel to protect his work from rain and snow.

As for people in the paintings, de la Concha attributes their absence to the constant motion of city dwellers. Not to worry though.

The life of de la Concha’s city exists in every student, teacher, and visitor who pauses at the wall-long collection in the Masonic Temple’s permanent gallery, every person who calls Pittsburgh home, even for a little while.

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