School of Art, Media, and Technology

MFA Fine Arts Alumni Profile: Tom Pnini

Written by:


After his recent visit to Parsons for the Alumni visiting artist series MOMENTUM, we caught up with artist Tom Pnini on his background and life after Parsons.


A photo still from the project Snow Demo, where 10,000 homemade styrofoam balls were attached to small parachutes. 

What are some of the best lessons you learned while in the Fine Arts MFA program at Parsons?

How to think about my practice also as a career, and critical thinking.

Do you think your theater background has made an impact on your artwork?

Absolutely, I think for me my practice always explores the connection between my background and the questions I have at the present. I think my growing up in the Theater world played a key part in my first art works; You are placed beside an oval stage. A backdrop is positioned at the center of the stage, dividing the space into two separate units. By standing in this position you are able to see both sides of the stage simultaneously. In the front you see the set and the actors, and experience the illusion in the same way the audience does. In the back, you see the apparatus that operates this illusion. Volcano Demo is a good example to emphasize the use of these early theatre experiences. In Volcano Demo, I built a giant volcano – seventeen meters wide and six meters high-on top of my parents apartment building in Tel-Aviv. The old peeled paint four-story building is conveniently located next to the Tel- Aviv police headquarters. The Volcano itself was made out of papier mache, and was built over the course of a month, with the help of eighteen friends. The sense of community that evolved around the production of Volcano Demo, from the foundation of the mountain, reached its peak the day of the actual shoot. The volcano was two-dimensional, and the video is divided into four, static frontal shots that shift from day to night I believe that the second impact on my practice has to be the connection between my Israeli past and the move to NY. A good example will be “Ballade to the Double”, a 4 channel video installation that explores my new home.

What motivates you to make public space projects like Snow Demo and Star Demo? Do you think public art matters or it is there for show?

The way I explore public work is divided into two parts; On one level, it is a surprise performance for unassuming bystanders watching an illusion, while seeing the people behind the scene who bring it to life , On another level, different than the performance, the video focuses our gaze on the image of a natural phenomena. It’s man driven manipulation is left unseen, as the stage workers, the neighbors and all bystanders are not a part of the video piece. The video puts forth the notion of a single artist, who puppeteers the illusion.

Where do you find your ideas/ inspirations for projects? Is there an ultimate goal for what you are trying to accomplish in your projects?

Ideas and inspiration usually comes from the same questions I ask myself as a person, political and critical thinking are being spiced with questions of romantic exploration and place.

What do you think is important for up and coming artists to learn today?

I would say the most important thing will be to establish good relationships with peers, show them work, see their works, go to exhibition together and always be happy for their success, there is no room for jealousy in the art world. The second thing I think is important is be a fan of art.

TomPnini_VolcanoDemo1 A photo still from the piece Volcano Demo, where a paper mache volcano was constructed on top of a roof of a residential building in Tel -Aviv. 

What were your favorite classes while at Parsons?

I especially enjoyed the class studio visits, those were the times you were able to go from studio to studio and talk about art- critic and be critiqued.

Do you have any advice to students entering the program?

Ask a lot of questions, read a lot and enjoy every minute of it. The art world is a lonely world and school is utopia.


Tom Pnini himself.

Thank you for answering our questions Tom. Check out more of Tom’s work here.

To hear upcoming MOMENTUM speakers, check out E-503 25 E. 13th Street on the following dates: Nov. 3rd, 10th, and 17th, from 10 AM to 11:30 PM. The Dec 1st speaker will be in room E-404, same time and address.

All Rights Reserved © 2024. Parsons School of Design.