Video: Six artists 'Meditate' on everyday stuff

Chris Bergeron

Reinventing herself as an artist, Denise Driscoll wanted to move beyond painting to create with "stuff."

So organizing her first group installation, the Holliston mother of two teenagers rounded up five like-minded artists who work with silk, discarded rope, paper, wire screens and used bike tires.

Part alchemists, part recyclers, they spent 2 1/2 months making "Material Meditation," an intriguing installation at the New Art Center that visitors can step on, listen to, blow on, leave messages in or just puzzle over.

And that's before you walk into Michael Frassinelli's tuneful and serene "Observatory" built from the wood and wire of three pianos.

It will be on display through Oct. 26. Driscoll and other artists will discuss their work in the exhibit today at 2 p.m. in the gallery at 61 Washington Park.

Driscoll said the idea for the installation came to her "by noticing artists, whose work I was drawn to, who took materials apart and put (them) back together."

A trained painter, she put away her brushes for a while to earn a master's degree in fine arts last year from the Art Institute of Boston at Lesley College. She said she focused on installation art because "I wanted to be involved with people who wanted to make art that had a communal aspect."

"I wanted to make art that had to happen with other people. I wanted to make something people could experience together," she said.

Featuring work by five artists, including three from MetroWest, and her own, "Material Meditation" is the first exhibit Driscoll curated.

Exhibitions Director Ceci Mendez said Driscoll was chosen to organize the exhibit as part of the NAC's Curatorial Opportunity Program which has staged group shows since 1991.

The selection committee, she said, was impressed that each of the six artists in Driscoll's proposal would be creating original work specifically designed for the gallery which is located in a former Unitarian church.

Occupying the entire gallery, "Material Meditation" seems to combine elements of a carnival fun house, Home Depot and Pee-wee Herman's playhouse.

By employing familiar materials in unfamiliar ways, the artists seem to be prompting viewers to reconsider the arbitrary nature of naming and using things.

Lisa Kellner formed hand-dyed silk organza into a floating cloudburst of diaphanous color that seems to breathe as visitors move by it. Sewing and weaving bits of wire mesh atop scraps of aluminum screening, Wellesley resident Jodi Colella created "Undercurrent," a thin plane of biomorphic blobs that suggest white blood cells attacking an infection. And Yuya Shiratori sliced bicycle tires into tiny rubber circles and fused them together so they resemble either amoebae under a microscope or a much-too-large mosquito net.

Passing through the gallery, visitors soon realize they can crouch under and inside several of the works to inspect their construction or maybe consider the discipline and whimsy required to make them.

Driscoll stressed there's no correct way to experience the installation.

After showing the five artists a scale model of the gallery in June, she said each worked alone, communicating with the others through a blog to describe their progress.

Driscoll said, "We came to decide to treat the space in the gallery as a single cohesive space. I felt there was something everyone was doing together, a kind of a group vision. Instead of imposing on the space, our works would grow out of it."

While helping the artists install their works, she sensed "a multiplicity of forms that were connected to each other."

"There was a conversation going on that was more solid than I had articulated (in the proposal)," Driscoll said. "Bit by bit, I found a wall or a corner for each work. I had a feeling of this energy vortex going off."

Visitors can sense that energy with more than their eyes.

In Driscoll's case, they can walk across her "DNA Blanket" in stocking feet, please following a labyrinth shaped like a human genome. With help from her children, she "wove" the blanket and design from gold, silver, blue and green bits of paper this summer.

Hanging on a nearby wall, her second work, "One Small Change," comprises paper folded into tiny envelopes in which visitors are invited to leave notes about what they'd like to change. One handwritten note said "Don't throw me out" and another read "Plastics." But the most frequent suggestion for change was "Elect Obama."

Using rope washed up on beaches, Natick resident Linc Cornell arranged strands of different thickness and color into beguiling shapes that could be hermit crab tracks across the sand or stick figures drawn by a precocious child.

While all the works fit together as elements of an almost organic whole, Holliston resident Michael Frassinelli's "Pianista Observatory" boggles the mind with its ambitious originality.

An art teacher at the Dana Hall School in Wellesley, he has constructed from piano parts a cage-like "observatory" three or four people can fit into. This complex piece is just part of his "Myth of History" series for which he's invented and printed an entire imaginary chronicle.

Upon entering, visitors can listen to taped piano music or look through "windows" to observe wooden snowflake-like "constellations" made from piano parts hanging on the wall.

From inside Frassinelli's piano-part observatory, visitors will find the perfect spot to meditate on how six artists reused everyday materials in exciting ways.


The New Art Center is located at 61 Washington Park, Newtonville.

The gallery is open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m. All events are free unless otherwise stated.

It is wheelchair accessible. American Sign Language interpreters are available on request.

To learn more about the New Art Center, call 617-964-3424 or visit