Old City: Baltimore Artist Debuts Basketball Blooms at Pentimenti Gallery

Brandon Donahue uses found and discarded basketballs, sewn into a floral pattern, for his blooms.

Brandon Donahue’s sculpture exhibition Rebounds & Assists, featuring his series of basketball blooms — sculptures Donahue makes from deflated basketballs arranged like flower petals — made its first appearance at the Pentimenti Gallery, where it will be on display until April 23.

Donahue is a visual artist from Memphis, Tennessee. who lives and works in Baltimore, Maryland. His technique is influenced by street art traditions and often features airbrushing and aspects of mural paintings, he said. 

“The basketball blooms that are featured in the show, I’ve been working on those for the past 10 years,” Donahue said.

The basketball blooms are manufactured from basketballs he has collected, 100 of which have been cut and reconstructed into floral-like blooms, Donahue said.

“It’s a little process of collecting them and is not quick,” he said. “I do have people around the country who have mailed them to me, but I’d rather have a couple of hundred of basketballs. But I can only make as many as I can find, so I’m always going to look and I’m always on the hunt.”

This was Donahue’s first exhibition in Philadelphia. He formed a relationship with Christine Pfister, owner and executive director of the Pentimenti Gallery, a year ago and believes this won’t be his last show in Philadelphia.

“We have an interest in work made with everyday materials, which are recycled and turned into a work of art,” Pfister said.

At the March 11 opening of the exhibit, attendees drank wine and admired Donahue’s artwork, many asking him questions about his process. Jack Gray, an attendee, talked with Donahue about his process for receiving and collecting basketballs.

“Talking with the artist was really interesting to learn about how they get all the basketballs from communities in the area — like trade basketballs with him,” Gray said. “It’s fascinating.” 

While Donahue waits to collect basketballs for future basketball blooms, he also works on several of his paintings. 

“I’m a painter first and foremost,” he said. “I’m working on other projects where there’s airbrushing, see. Sharks, or painting, or murals.”

Several friends of Donahue attended his opening and admired his work. 

Guests admiring the artwork. (Christine Jean-Baptiste/PN)

“Brandon is an old friend, and his work is amazing,” August Mangani said. “And you have to come see it.” 

Donahue enjoys being an artist and said he loves the feeling of working on a new project.

“I’ll pop in my earbuds and listen to a podcast and work for hours on those blooms, just sewing, using shoe strings to tie them,” he said. “But if I’m feeling really energetic, I’d want something more physical, I think I would probably, you know, be outside painting a mural or doing something standing up.” 

The physicality of making the art is an important part of Donahue’s process, he said. 

“I guess it has a lot to do with the body, like how I physically feel, as opposed to like, a hierarchy of like what’s the best,” he said. 

Some attendees at Donahue’s opening were excited to see his work in person for the first time. 

“I’m really loving Brendan’s work,” said Kia Gaffney, who has followed Donahue’s work online. “I’ve never seen it in person and it’s stunning. It’s fabulous.”

Other attendees enjoyed engaging in more philosophical and conceptual conversations about Donahue’s work. 

“I think the event was well thought out and I’m loving Brandon’s artwork,” Eric Brennon said. “The way he has structured these basketballs and reconstructed them into art is great to look at.” 

Some attendees commented on Donahue’s use of color and floral symmetry. 

“It’s fascinating hearing Brandon’s story and seeing his artwork,” Amy Zen said. “I love the different colors he uses on the basketballs, and I think it’s cool to know that people mail him these discarded items.”

Other attendees were basketball fans simply happy with the timing of the show.

Brandon Donahue standing next to the title card for his show. (Christine Jean-Baptiste/PN)

“Brandon’s work is pretty cool,” Nate Adams said. “It’s March Madness, and I’m a huge sports fan, so I love his work. I think everyone should come out and see his work.”

Donahue agrees that the timing couldn’t have been better.

“I’m really excited and happy to start the show,” he said. “Kind of like showing in Philly for the first time and introducing these works, especially the basketball season and March Madness happening, I think it’s super appropriate.” 

Please email any questions or concerns about this story to: editor@philadelphianeighbors.com.

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