Two human-sized praying mantis sculptures greet visitors at the entrance of Fishtown’s newest art gallery, Periphery. Artist and gallery operator Dennis Daly created his praying mantises from wire and fabric.
“It’s the bike reflector eyes that really sell it,” said Daly, who has been living in the building at the corner of Norris and Gaul Streets for 10 years.
Daly, a Temple University graduate and lifelong Fishtown and Kensington resident, dreamed of turning his home into a gallery space for First Friday exhibitions for as long as he’s lived there. The space was once an ice cream parlor. Before that, Daly’s grandmother told him, it was where she bought Catholic school uniforms.
His goal of cleaning up the space and making it worthy of showing art was realized during November’s First Friday experience.
Periphery welcomed dozens of visitors on Nov. 1. It’s a few blocks off of Frankford Avenue, where the more established galleries are located, but Daly is hoping to bring walking traffic to other parts of the neighborhood. He notes the new ReAnimator Coffee Bar as a draw for art lovers to discover a block east into Fishtown. Next month, Daly is hoping to arrange a T-shirt swap or a Christmas craft bazaar.
For now, Periphery features Daly’s own paintings and sculptures, including a depiction of a scene from the classic video game Frogger and a tribute to a “Muppet Show” backpack he wore in kindergarten. “A lot of my work romanticizes the world I came from,” said Daly.
There are also many abstract cityscapes and collages hanging on the walls and in flippable piles. Daly added that Philly is a strong influence. He’s been especially in tune with the transformation of the two neighborhoods.
“I’ve seen the shifting to urban green living and the art scene growing,” he said.
But Daly also acknowledges that some of the old residents and newcomers don’t get along. “I’ve tried to be an ambassador. There are people who try to pigeonhole the community I grew up in, and that’s not good.”
He wants to keep the neighborhood positive for all its residents and hopes to bring people together at Periphery.