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'Artifacts and Fiction: The Strange Legend of the Pianistas' at ASU

Article Published: Jan. 13, 2011 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
'Artifacts and Fiction: The Strange Legend of the Pianistas' at ASU

'Book Pages - Pianista Legend' by Michael Frassinelli

Catherine J. Smith Gallery at Appalachian State University presents Artifacts and Fiction: The Strange Legend of the Pianistas, as told by artist Michael Frassinelli.

The exhibition will be on view from Jan. 28 to March 1 and will open with a reception on Thursday, Jan. 27, from 5:30 to 7 p.m.

A public performance by Frassinelli accompanies the exhibition and will be held in the gallery on Jan. 18 from 12 to 1:30 p.m. These events are free and open to the public. The exhibition is curated by Jody Servon, Heather Waldroup, and Ben Wesemann.

Along with being a sculptor capable of constructing visually stimulating works, Frassinelli conducts written research to develop fictional stories that come to life through his art. He has explored a variety of mediums over the last 25 years, but his most recent work centers on sculpture made entirely out of piano parts.

As a result of seven years worth of investigations through sculpture and related writings, Frassinelli developed "The Legend of the Pianistas," a fictional account of a lost North American culture known for using nothing but piano parts to create all material needs.

Through Frassinelli's work, these fictional conceptions - ranging from masks, musical instruments and weapons to totems, ceremonial objects and large-scale structures used for celestial navigation - become visual and physical realities.

Frassinelli's works are then exhibited much like artifacts in a natural history museum, complete with documentation, sound, video, performance and a fully illustrated museum catalog.

He said, "My work has changed in style and substance over the years to include painting and sculpture, masks, works on paper, canvas and wood; using found objects and motors, feathers and concrete; work that has been welded, carved, sketched, written, videotaped and burned. What remains in all is an interest in the substance and meaning of objects, mechanisms and materials, and an underlying sense of humor."

The exhibition at the Catherine J. Smith Gallery will be Frassinelli's first in North Carolina.

About the Artist

Frassinelli was born in Hartford, Conn., in 1964. He studied art at the University of Connecticut with a focus on design and sculpture, and received his bachelor of fine art degree in 1986.

He has been a prop-maker, set designer, mask-maker, freelance artist and ship's carpenter. His experiences have allowed him to work with a variety of talented people, from The San Francisco Ballet and Vermont's Bread and Puppet Theatre to a German production company and a Balinese mask-carver.

Frassinelli's work has been shown in California and Connecticut and, more recently, in various galleries around the Boston area. He has been a fellow at the Vermont Studio Center in Johnson, Vt., and was listed as one of the "10 Best in Arts and Entertainment for 2008" in an issue of the MetroWest Daily News' Year in Review.

He is currently on sabbatical from the Dana Hall School in Wellesley, Mass., where he teaches, is chairman of the Visual Arts Department, and is director of the Dana Art Gallery. He lives outside of Boston in an old farmhouse with his wife and 6-year-old twins.

Program Schedule

All programs are free and open to the public, and take place on the campus of Appalachian State University.

Tuesday, Jan. 18
A Short History of the Piano in These United States and An Introduction to the Incredible Legend of the Pianista Peoples of North America, 12 to 1:30 p.m.
A Public Performance by Michael Frassinelli
Catherine J. Smith Gallery, Farthing Auditorium

Thursday, Jan. 27
Opening Reception for Artifacts and Fiction: The Strange Legend of the Pianistas, 5:30 to 7p.m.
Catherine J. Smith Gallery, Farthing Auditorium

The Catherine J. Smith Gallery is located at 733 Rivers St. in Farthing Auditorium on the Appalachian State University campus in Boone. Admission is free. Hours are Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call (828) 262-2569 or visit

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