Fireflies & Flying Rabbits


table setting at In Situ: 628

Table setting at In Situ: 628

Eileen Tognini is one of those people who’s energy is infectious and productive! She is a curator and connector. As she put it to me, she loves bringing art and people together and has been doing so very successfully for over ten years. She hosted the highly successful “Gallery in the Garden” events at her families beautiful historic farm home at Hawk Mountain, in rural Pennsylvania at the foot hills of the Pocono Mountains. I call them events because hundreds of people would attend the annual, two weekend-long parties with high quality art being displayed from all over the country. Ever searching for new ways to express her talents as a coordinator of artistic vision while educating new audiences to the significance and warmth of original art,  she has since created and been involved in dynamic  new projects. This past summer I was invited to participate in her in-home show entitled In Situ: 628. For this event she completely redesigned the first floor of her family’s Fishtown home in Philadelphia to create unique settings for art and invited guests. With over twenty artists participating, there was a spectacular diversity all held together by Eileen’s vision and taste. Imagine a chandelier made from antique trumpets over a visionary dinning room setting, combined with ceramic wall sculpture and one of a kind installation art pieces, all organized in a festive party environment with artists and art appreciators.

I also had the good fortune of attending her curated exhibition entitled “The Titan and the Fireflies”, by New York sculptor Jasen Hackenwerth at the newly renovated space for artists, 2424 Studios, also in Fishtown, Philadelphia. Heckenwerth creates fantastical sculptures out of balloons! In typical Eileen style, this was a beautifully presented affair with great music and catering. The exhibition space is a two story exhibition/performance area perfectly suited for Hackenwerth’s imagination. Giant creations of bug-like forms filled the darkened space to create amazing effects and an enveloping experience for the quests.

Heckenwerth's, The Titan and the Fireflies

Heckenwerth's, The Titan and the Fireflies

There has long been a tradition in Modern and Post Modern movements, of art as performance, and in the investigation of art created as ephemeral expressions with  a purposeful negation of longevity. Environmental art that is meant to kinetically deteriorate with time is a prime example. But I question a contemporary mindset that is tailored by the bombardment of mass media and the need to entertain. Tom Wolfs brilliant treatise, The Painted Word, has been an anchor in my thinking for years. His basic tenant is that for much of modern art to be understood, it needs to have a written explanation to support it, that is, an idea first and the expression of it, almost secondary. That critics like Greenberg and Rosenberg sanctified worth by theory became the norm, and mountains of verbiage have been written to support many slights of hand that masquerade as art. On a certain level, all art has a degree of entertainment to it and Heckenswerth’s balloon installation was certainly that. It had the wow factor. But for me, entertained as I was, I couldn’t help feeling that the effects and experience were shallow, a show piece for the MTV mentality. There was little that will be of lasting impact, few layers of meaning to be revealed, and no mystery to mine over the years. But it was fun and exciting to be a part of!

But to you Ms. Tognini, thank you for your passion and positive spirit. Your beautiful intention gives so much to so many.

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