That South Philly crack filled with jimmies was definitely a work of art. And it was no accident.
It was the handiwork of Dave S. Pettengill, who spoke to Billy Penn today about his latest piece of street art. He’s calling it “A Valentine to Philly.” And he hasn’t yet spoken with Rebecca Kenton, the woman who found the sprinkles outside her home, who offered to bake for the person who could tell her who was responsible for the, uh, unconventional street repair. But he’d love to hear from her.
“I keep telling everybody, ‘Turn me in! get a cake!’” the artist said.
He spotted the crack on Mildred street, near Bella Vista, on the way to work one day. He wouldn’t say where he works, revealing only that he’s a “restaurant guy.” “You’ll never be a starving artist if you work in a restaurant,” said Pettengill.
He was considering multiple locations, but it was the right spot. Mildred is a side street, between Eighth and Ninth. It was small enough where a passersby can’t miss a filled-in crevice.
We first reported on the Valentine yesterday, and the colorful crack has taken off on social media — not to mention spawning intense debates over using “sprinkles” versus “jimmies.”
“I can see out my window: Every other person that walks by is photographing this,” Kenton told us yesterday.
So, on to the details. How many jimmies are in there? To fill the crack, Pettengill told us he used roughly three pounds of the cupcake and ice cream topping.
“You can get anything online,” he explained. “I don’t want it to become a gimmicky thing.
“But now I have to find out what to do with 20 more pounds of sprinkles.”
Pettengill, who lives in Chinatown, uses several different media in his work, but has produced multiple pieces based on street flaws. With nods to graffiti, he’s spray-painted street cracks in neon colors, often a startlingly hot pink.
“I’ve done a bunch of these pieces,” he said. “To get people to notice it, you have to exaggerate it a lot.”
He often works with found objects. Two of the common items he salvages are drug vials and baby pacifiers. These items bear a “bright, enticing sort of nature,” he explained, and looking for something akin to that, he opted for jimmies.
“It has a lot to do with the sensual nature of it,” he said.
“I use a lot of food metaphors,” he explained further. (He doesn’t mean sensuality in the sense of sexy stuff. He means enlivening the senses – brightening a taste, or a touch, or a high.) There are hundreds of ice cream toppings, but look again, can’t a sprinkle seem pill-like? “The color, quantity and the candy is a parallel to drug use.”
Then there’s also the commercialization of the holiday, he said.
“Valentine’s Day, the chocolate… The candy-coated, plastic, packaged sensuality, that perverts the intended meaning of romance and love,” he said. He paused, with a laugh: “I don’t want to ruin this woman’s Valentine’s Day.”
Pettengill thinks through a lot of questions in the course of his work, such as: Is it litter if it’s biodegradable, if he put it there intentionally? How can he bring attention to street flaws that Philadelphians pass daily, but may appear so normal that pedestrians barely notice?
“It’s funny [the Streets Department] would have a comment on something that, once its rains, it’s gone,” he said. “The real issue is literally underneath my work, which is infrastructural neglect.”