The downtown wedge–shaped area of Pittsburgh, observed from just about any place on Grandview Avenue atop Mt. Washington, is considered to be one of the three top city views in America. I totally concur. From the balcony deck of my rented apartment on Grandview Avenue in the early 70s, you could also see the Duquesne Incline moving to and fro from above and below. Funny thing though, I was there a couple of years and never painted that famous view! Shame on me.
What eventually prompted me to paint that panoramic scene was an antique Erector Set that I had purchased years ago, but never could figure out what I wanted to construct with it. As a kid, building with three different Erector Sets, I had done almost all of the manual constructions many times over. As an adult, I had ventured out on my own, by constructing a Statue of Liberty, Eiffel Tower, London Bridge, etc, etc, etc.
The best of my creative ideas usually hit me while I’m walking in our beautiful park that runs parallel to the Hillsborough River. This was no exception.
Bang–out of nowhere came: What if I were to paint that majestic scene and then construct two incline cars out of my Erector Set, and then, physically attach them to the painting’s frame so that a simple hand crank would function them simultaneously (Phew, I’m out of breath). It sounded plausible, but like anything else worth doing, it took much more time and ingenuity then I initially thought it would. But it was worth it.
Now I’ve got an art piece that not only can be appreciated visually, but interactively as well. There is just something soothing, neat, and mesmerizing about tuning the hand crank at the above incline station in one direction and seeing, up close, two incline cars moving in opposite directions (Gagner engineering!). What better way can there possibly be to represent The Steel City, Pittsburgh, than to use the miniature steel girders of Erector Sets–I reasoned.
Wife, Doris, (only one) mockingly said, “Larry you’re 73 and still playing with Erector Sets!” I countered with, “Yeah, ain’t it great! (Yes, I know the real incline cars don’t have large front wheels, but I took some artistic license to emphasis a large tumbling Steeler logo happening while the cars are moving).
The inclines were initially built for the steel workers, who predominately once lived on Mt. Washington, to have a ready access to the mills below located on the river. These enduring steel workers went daily from a haven of rest to a working hell. I parallel their incline decent to Jesus’ coming down from “The Heaven” above into the humanity of sin below. Or His decent into a crucified death and His later ascent into resurrection and ascension. We Christians claim His resurrected inheritance by His sacrificial death.