by Lou Mancinelli
From leaving film school at Temple University early to opening a restaurant on the Mediterranean during his travels and later a successful club in Brooklyn in his 20s, local realtor Christopher Plant has led a life beyond the 9-to-5.
In his time, Plant has helped to start an English-speaking canal company affiliated with a comedy club during a stint in Amsterdam; he lived in Key West and worked as a chef in a New Hampshire ski lodge.
In 1991, at age 23, he enrolled in the Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston, where he essentially started his college career a second time. There he pursued various disciplines and experimented with techniques like including text in his artwork.
Plant, a Germantown resident, is currently exhibiting 70-plus works at his 7224 Germantown Ave. studio space, through Feb. 11.
“I love for the painting to have a whole story mixed up in it,” said Plant. “I’m finally taking the time to come back. It was like I opened up a floodgate.”
In his work there is a wavering of line and vibrant offsetting of colors reminiscent of pop art. The pieces themselves might be described as tiny pop songs but enjoyable ones with identifiable and succinct themes. They are of a child, but lack childishness. There is isolation there and playful connectedness.
Plant had been away from the easel for almost two decades. He points to abstract expressionism as a heavy influence. “I’m a realtor, and people know me for that,” said Plant, an agent for Mt. Airy’s Elfant Wissahickon who won the Greater Philadelphia Association of Realtors Rookie of the Year award in 2005. But do people know him for his art? “No one has any idea.”
Plant enjoys to experiment with texture. Sometimes he preps a dozen pieces at once, weaving between them, adding shades here, tone there; layering the canvas as the piece evolves over a few weeks.
Raised in Carlisle, near Harrisburg, Plant moved to Philadelphia after high school to study film at Temple. But two years into school he decided to leave. “I just wasn’t ready,” he said. “I just had to wander.”
Chris landed in Key West in the late ‘80s at age 20. Plant says it hadn’t yet been overwhelmed by tourists. He installed ceiling fans at 7 a.m. and was scuba diving by mid-afternoon. A pirate’s paradise, he called it. There were drug smugglers and IRS evaders, way-out types, thrill seekers, folks in search of kicks. “You could kill yourself losing touch with reality,” he said about the experience.
He saw it happen to people around him. In 1990 he moved to New Hampshire and worked in a ski lodge. The following year he followed a woman to Tel Aviv, Israel, where he opened a restaurant and stayed for almost two years before returning to the U.S.
His brother had attended art school, and Plant headed to MassArt in Boston in 1993. He finished school two years later and traveled to Amsterdam, where his brother had moved. There he helped found the aforementioned tour company. “Having a boat in Amsterdam is like having a Cadillac convertible when you’re 16,” Plant said.
The run among the canals lasted a year. Plant returned to the States a second time, this time to Durham, N.C., where he worked as a master carpenter with The American Dance Festival. He’d learned the craft while working jobs while in Philly as a film student.
Next, Plant submerged himself in New York City in 1997. His first night in town, a friend took him to a dance performance in Central Park where he became entranced by one of the dancers. Soon afterwards he was hired to be the company’s technical director for a month-long European tour.
The dancer became his companion, and they now have two children. But that came later. First, Plant worked the next few years for various modern dance companies making sets, designing lights and touring all over the world, to Palermo, Brazil, California, Paris, Berlin, Budapest and more.
While in New York he also became involved with an art and performance space in Brooklyn in an old mayonnaise factory.
Called Galapagos Art Space, it still operates today. After 9/11, though, Plant moved to Philadelphia.
Aside from coaching his sons, 11 and 12, in baseball and travel soccer, Plant is also on the board of Hidden City and Franklin’s Paine Park, a group devoted to the development of a skate park now under construction near the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
This May, Plant will officially marry his companion Jessica Meeker, co-owner of a local Pilates/yoga studio, while celebrating the 15-year anniversary of their first date.