My most fulfilling work has been as a volunteer artist for Sing for Hope, an organization that provides arts programming to under-resourced communities, in pursuit of its mission of Art for All. In 2013 and 2015, I was honored to participate in the Sing for Hope Pianos public art installation, which places painted pianos in New York City parks & public spaces for two weeks for anyone to play.
At first glance, this piano is stark white, blank. As the viewer approaches, however, the unexpected texture of the piano is revealed. The piano is covered in tiny letters, words that compose messages of hope, nearly invisible to the eye, discernible only by touch.
Referencing the tactile nature of the instrument, this piano seeks to engage those who may not ordinarily be able to experience visual art: the blind & visually impaired. Interspersed with words inscribed in Braille, this piano's hidden message is perceptible only to those who come close enough to feel & discover.
Broadly, Undiscovered is a reflection on language & translation. I often think about the simultaneous awe & alienation of experiencing a new language. Unaware of the meaning of the words -- or even when one word ends and another begins --, the ear is suddenly free to focus on form, rather than substance; to hear abstract sounds in all their beauty & intrigue, rather than processing words. Braille is a visual representation of that experience. Patterns come to light, but the words remain elusive. The key to unlocking their meaning lies with those who, through the loss of one mode of perception, have heightened all others. In a world built for the sighted, this piano tells the blind & visually impaired, quite literally, "This piano is for you."
I began the process of painting this piano with a simple idea: What if you were the artist? What if we all were, together? What if there were a way to connect all of the people who walked by this piano? What if everyone could leave a mark?
The canvas-covered sides of the piano provide a blank, open surface for visitors to leave their thumbprints. Just as an artist paints a canvas, visitors will use inkpads placed at the front of the piano to add vibrant color with their fingers, leaving their individual stamps on this evolving work of art.
The hand-drawn text on the lid, revealing the grain of the wood – the piano’s own imprint – is a reference to the evanescent beauty of handwriting in a digital age. Like a thumbprint, handwriting is personal and intimate, imperfect and unique, revealing an individuality and humanity that is often lost in digital communication.
My hope is that, by the end of the installation, this pristine, white piano will be bursting with color, covered in thousands of thumbprints, a joyful record of every person who stopped by.
This piano is an invitation to make a mark. On the canvas, and wherever you go. Because maybe what makes everything come alive is the bold act of believing in your own mark, of beginning to discover what it is that only you can give to the world. And maybe then, the billions of tiny, distinct impressions can come together to form a grand, collective, beautiful whole.