Telling the tale of a timeless Philadelphia

Fishtown resident tells the story of the changing landscape with trolley paintings.

Timeless with a twist: One of Terrence Laragione’s trolley painting include a costumed bunny.

By Aja Beech

Terrence Laragione is an artist living in Fishtown creating realistic, and sometimes surreal, paintings of areas of the River Wards featuring the 15 trolley.

After spending the first few years of his life in Philadelphia, he grew up in nearby Bensalem before coming back for college, attending the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art. Laragione has lived in Philadelphia ever since.

His trolley series began almost 10 years ago when he purchased the Fishtown home that doubles as his studio.

While spending time in the area, he became enamored with the trolleys and painted them in nearly every season, sometimes inserting the image of an adult dressed in a rabbit costume.

“I’m obsessed with vintage things, retro things,” Laragione said at his studio. “I love old architecture, old vehicles, I love things from the art deco time period. The trolleys, they were originally designed, I think, in 1936, and these particular trolleys, the design has not changed much in the past 80 years.”

For Laragione, who also owns Buzz Café,1800 N. Howard St., there is something appealing about the timelessness of the trolley design.

“I always loved sci-fi my whole life,” he said. “Flash Gordon was on when I was a kid, and there were spaceships on the show that closely resembled the trolleys. So, when I first saw these trolleys, it kind of brought me back to that time period with the spaceships, and the little sparks flying out of the back. Then, after the initial attraction of the aesthetic of the trolley, it became more of a sport for me, almost like hunting, I would just follow them. My favorite images of trolleys are when two are passing one another, something about that is so sublime.”

For the artist, paintings of the 15 trolley in certain parts of Philadelphia look like they could be a scene from two years ago or 50 years ago, something he enjoys as the neighborhood now changes so rapidly, the new development changing a once familiar landscape.

Images of the 15 trolley in the snow have been a common site in the past few weeks and have been a favorite of Laragione’s.

“The city is so pretty when it snows,” he said.

The works he creates are not limited only to trolleys. One series was inspired by Van Gogh and the cartoon Adventure Time, and he has created Star Wars-inspired pieces.

While his work goes beyond the trolley tracks, it’s the city that always inspires him.

“There’s nothing dating it,” Laragione said, “and I kind of like that there are parts of Philadelphia that seem like they haven’t changed in 50 years and I just find that kind of beautiful in a way. It has this timeless quality.”

Terrence Laragione’s works have been featured at Rodger LaPelle Gallery, some are currently on view at Buzz Café, and some will be on display on May 11 at the Sculpture Court Yard, 1714 Mascher Street.

For details about upcoming shows, visit Terrence Laragione Art on Facebook.