About the artist:
Artist Michael Frassinelli was born in Hartford, CT in 1964. He studied art at the University of Connecticut, with a focus on design and sculpture, receiving his BFA in 1986. He has been a prop maker, set designer, mask-maker, free-lance artist and ship’s carpenter, and has worked with a variety of people, from Berkeley California's Shotgun Players and The San Francisco Ballet and to Vermont’s Bread and Puppet Theatre, a German theater production company, and a Balinese mask-carver. Although he has worked in a variety of art mediums over the last 25 years his recent work from the Legend of the Pianistas series centers around sculpture made entirely out of piano parts. His work has been shown previously in California and Connecticut, and recently in various galleries around the Boston area. He has been a fellow at the Vermont Studio Center in Johnson, VT, and was an Artist-in-Residence at Appalachian State University in January of 2011, performing and creating a large-scale installation based on the “Legend of the Pianista” series. He was listed in the MetroWest Daily News’ “Year in Review” issue as one of the “10 Best in Arts and Entertainment for 2008.” In 2011 two figurative pieces and a large dwelling from the Pianista series were purchased by the Ripley’s Believe it Or Not Museum in Orlando, Florida. Since 2002, Frassinelli has taught at the Dana Hall School in Wellesley, Massachusetts, where he is Chair of the Visual Arts Department and Director of the Dana Art Gallery. He lives in Holliston, MA in an old farmhouse with his wife and 12-year-old twins.
About the work:
My work has changed in style and substance over the years to include a variety of materials, methods and media. What remains in all is an interest in the substance and meaning of objects and materials, storytelling, and often an underlying sense of humor.
My recent work centers around sculptures and installations made from old piano parts. While making these objects originally, a story emerged of a fictional tribe known as the Pianistas. In the gallery setting, the objects function as artifacts from this lost culture, which used piano parts for all their material needs, creating everything from tools, ceremonial objects and masks, costumes and musical instruments, to large-scale structures and weapons, among other things, in much the same way native tribes from the Great Plains utilized the buffalo. The original purpose, symbolism and spiritual meaning of these objects, how they have been described by art historians and anthropologists both in the past and present, and what happened to these objects over the course of history are all part of the narrative, which continues to evolve.
The series is collectively known as The Legend of the Pianistas, and the work is displayed as a natural history museum exhibit, complete with text panels, archival photographs, video, sound installation, a museum catalog, documentary film and a variety of other ephemera. It has also occasionally included fictional lecture, live music and dance performance. It plays with the idea of how history is created, how "primitive" cultures are represented in museums and in scholarly writing, and, in a recent narrative twist, presents an alternative thesis that the whole body of artifacts and the legend itself may have been an elaborate hoax perpetrated by a museum docent / folk artist from the Chicago Field Museum at the turn of the century.
All images are by Michael Frassinelli unless otherwise noted
Michael Frassinelli Arts © 2017