ARMCHAIR TRAVELS – BETHLEHEM, PA

I’m excited to introduce Armchair Travels, an invitation to travel around the world through the reportage illustration of Studio 1482. We have gathered art from our travels to share with you, in the hopes that while you can’t get out and see these places (yet), our experiences may bring some happiness and light to your day. Please check back often as we will be posting new adventures weekly.

Enjoy Bethlehem, PA…by Dominick Santise

I have had the fortune to walk the grounds of the Colosseum in Rome, where emperors watched alongside the general public as gladiators fought and the floor of the great amphitheater was flooded for naval battles. Just outside a train station a few hundred miles away, in an alcove under an awning across the street from what would pass for a tiny traveling carnival in the US, I waited without an umbrella for a storm to pass so I could fulfill a 15 year fantasy of wandering the streets of Pompeii, nearly two millennia after it was buried by volcanic ash. Six years of Latin rushing back as I remembered the lessons of ancient engineering and I hopped across the stepping stones in the middle of the street.

This is a story of a great American ruin.

The first time I drove into Bethlehem, Pennsylvania I was looking for a ghost—some still living remnant of a time past. I got off the highway outside the city and made my way along what looked like any other American strip. Diners, gas stations, mini malls and McDonalds—standard American culture where dreams have faded and time has moved on. The further off the highway I ventured, the more I came to terms with the idea that I wouldn’t find what I was after. A spur of the moment trip in a time before smart phones, I had no guide for what I was searching for. As I rounded a bend and came over the last hill my eyes fell upon the valley before me.

If the ruins in Italy were symbols of the long ago fallen Roman Empire, the ruins along the Lehigh River were a marker of the more recent fall of what may be the first period of the Industrial Empire. We are living through its evolution as we speak. Year by year, decade by decade, we become further removed from the machine that built the modern world we live in today, forged not by solitary hands of blacksmiths of a bygone era but by giant titans and blast furnaces that are already a thing of the past. In just a century those blast furnaces have been replaced by sub-atomic collisions and molecular engineering. A few now produce what took the strength of an army.

It was a chance occurrence that I was within an hours drive of Bethlehem Steel that day. I would return twice over the years following to draw and shoot the relics—the source of iron for much of the mighty skyline in Manhattan and so much of the country. Those visits stay with me to this day. Our culture and history became clearer each time I went out. From folk songs and pop anthems to labor movements and the blue collar working class, there is so much to discover when we have the chance to travel across this great landscape.

To see more Armchair Travels from the reportage artists of Studio 1482, please click HERE.

NJ Web Design: Media Climb