The exhibit, "The Adventures of Pinocchio," featured the work of Tuscan ceramics artist and craftsman Eugenio Taccini and was on display in the DuBois Gallery of Maginnes Hall through August 15.
"It is an exhibit that is quite intriguing and interesting," says Ricardo Viera, professor of art and architecture and curator of the Lehigh University Art Galleries. "The puppet’s struggles and joys are an aesthetic metaphor for the universal human condition, and it is an exhibit that seems to evoke a strong response in people."
The bold, colorful images that come to life on more than 30 ceramic panels portray Pinocchio in various daily settings that offer visual political and social commentary: a smug, red-white-and-blue clothed businessman with an eagle’s head uses a defeated peasant’s head as an ashtray; a larger-than-life Italian policeman reaches down to tweak the nose of the powerless puppet. In another panel, the fearsome mouth of a voracious shark looms over the puppet as it bobs helplessly, attempting to swim against an indifferent current.
The panels, which one critic described as "using color like a penetrating weapon that strikes deep into your emotions," also acknowledge the dark side of Tuscan culture. A Fatina who is introduced as a surrealistic witch waits for death at the door, evoking ancient legends told around rural hearths.
The exhibit came to Lehigh through Viera’s association with a local professor who is a personal friend of the artist Taccini, who is renowned in Italy and the world for his dramatic use of color and imagery in his ceramics.
"When presented with this opportunity, I said yes, of course," Viera says. "In addition to the master craftsmanship, there is this beautiful, engaging story of Pinocchio that is told and retold in panel after panel."
The exhibit is presented through the National Carlo Collodi Foundation, which develops awareness and debate on the problems of childhood and younger generations through the dissemination of world literature. It originally debuted on the occasion of the United Nations Special Session on the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
"We are all called upon to remember that our commitment is still and constantly required so that the little ones shall not suffer from the hardships which, today, continue to afflict too many of the world’s children," says Daniela Marcheschi, counselor with the Collodi Foundation.