Sometimes, spur-of-the-moment get-togethers with like-minded people create magic. Collective conversations converge, creating sparks that carry over into the next day—or the next year.
For a couple of dozen creative types, that moment of magic coalesced on Monday night, the eve before the last day of 2019. It was fitting in many ways.
The scene was reminiscent of the art salons that were the place to be in Paris during the 1920s (isn’t that a coincidence?) when Gertrude Stein and partner Alice B. Toklas held court at their residence surrounded by literary figures (Hemingway and Fitzgerald) artists (Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse) and other legendary bright lights like Gerald and Sara Murphy of the French Riviera playground.
This group of expatriated Americans known as “The Lost Generation” (after the Great War ended) altered Paris forever, embracing the Jazz Age spirit. The ever-changing roster of artists actually invented the nuance of networking. The salons valued ideas and intellectualism over social strata as the mix of personalities hailed from all walks of life.
On Monday night, Harrisburg had its own version of this Roaring ’20s scene. In the heart of Midtown, artists “Bootleg” Charlie Feathers and Reina “R76” Wooden threw an art open house where many familiar local faces showed up to celebrate a reconstituted art salon and to gather together for an impromptu art show tour. Who better to appreciate art than artists and art lovers?
Among local luminaries present, portraitist painter Andrew Guth rubbed elbows with potter Vivian Sterste and photographer Jeb Boyd of Vivi on Verbeke. Bearded sculptor Chad Whitaker and friend Jess surveyed the offerings upstairs and down. “Art in the Wild” sculptor Beau MacGinnes (sounds familiar) and his model wife, Kaila, were there, as well as my beautiful wife and 3rd in the Burg photographer, Jana. In fact, Beau and Jana formed a landscaping lynchpin four years ago installing art exhibits at the annual Wildwood Park show.
Entrepreneurs and partners Zachary Nitzan and Tahirih Alia, owners of Modern Rugs on N. 3rd Street, were excited to see all the recent work that the collaboration of Charlie and Reina’s partnership has brought forth. By the sheer volume of energetic pieces across all mediums, that team effort has spurred a creatively combustible collection. From bootleg jewelry and adorned fashion pieces to wire-wrapped wall hangings, paintings, sculpture and more, the duo presented an outpouring that surpassed their previous groupings individually. When two artists encourage and challenge each other, magic happens.
Vivi and Jeb have shared a similar bond, as well as being a creative couple. Kirsten Moe, a long time arts patron and Harrisburg resident owning one of Charlie’s teapots, spoke to the object being more than functional, going beyond a teapot and becoming a tempest of a treasure. Last but certainly not least in the art world sphere was Lessa Helm, potter and catalyst behind the 3rd Street Studio, one of the founders of 3rd in the Burg, who was also revolutionary in bringing contemporary art to Harrisburg. As the evening continued, I even got to meet Lawrance Binda, co-publisher and editor-and-chief of TheBurg. It was our first opportunity to actually converse—my boss of sorts.
When you hear the phrase, “they phoned it in,” it usually references an actor’s performance. In my case, it’s my art blog. Instead, I just hit “send,” which I’m doing right now. Happy New Year!
Editor’s Note: You don’t need a party invitation to see Reina and Charlie’s works. Look for a new exhibit featuring the artists early in 2020 at the Art Association of Harrisburg.