Michael Frassinelli Arts

The Legend of the Pianistas

Click on the cover image to the right to view a digital copy of the fully illustrated catalog "Legend of the Pianistas"



About this series:


For the past ten years, I have been creating 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 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.