DARKMATTER with Kids

Written by Harriet Monzon-Aguirre | September 2022

Summer is over. I planned to publish a blog post about our family trip to Casa Grande in Santa Elena and our reimmersion into Colombian culture and heritage but I will reflect on our retreat in other creative ways. This blog post is about our visit to Jason Hackenwerth’s immersive exhibition of works called DARKMATTER on display at The Gallery of Creative Pinellas until October 16th.


Upon entering the gallery, our eyes were immediately drawn to the large floating sculptures made of intricately woven balloons. My children, Madeline and William, wanted to climb through the installation, and were adamant that it looked sturdy enough to do so. They saw balloons and thought ‘celebration’ so it was quite difficult to explain why they shouldn’t touch the work. When I reminded them that this was an art display so they should use their eyes, they decided to get on all fours and climb underneath the sculptures instead. We moved on from that room quickly.

Madeline and William climbing underneath Jason Hackenwerth's balloon sculpture

Madeline enjoying the drawings and photographs of Jason Hackenwerth's designs and displays

The adjacent room had a retrospective of more than 50 drawings and images of Hackenwerth’s exhibitions from the past 20 years. Both kids loved to see the works in process, from the illustrations to photographs of the final pieces, but Madeline was especially taken by the drawings. I found it interesting that they both were trying to find something relatable in each sculpture, ‘this once looks like a stingray,’ or ‘this one is a slug.’ I suppose that it’s human nature to make those kinds of connections. I saw fishing baskets.


Another area of the exhibition we really enjoyed was the interactive area. One placard explained how Jason Hackenwerth uses shapes and color to express moods and feelings, so Madeline sat down to color her emotions with an elephant for company. Meanwhile William, cape and wand at the ready magically tried to discern how many M&Ms filled the jar in an area showcasing the use for mathematics for the planning stages of the installations.

Madeline Drawing Emotions with Line and Colors

Madeline inspired by Jason Hackenwerth's work


DARKMATTER delivered on its promise of being an inspiration for the whole family. I recommend anyone with children to visit and glimpse the inner workings of the mind of international artist Jason Hackenwerth.

The Gallery of Creative Pinellas is located on 12211 Walsingham Rd, Largo, FL 33778 Wed-Sun 12-5PM.