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Artist Colleen Galeazzi brings life to discarded instruments

Limb by limb, note by note

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Anyone who has ever tinkered with anatomy models will have quickly discovered the complexity of the human body. Outlining the placement of the skeletal and other vital systems and mapping major organs, arteries and veins, the scaled-down plastic kits assist in helping us to understand human anatomy. Not that this is must-have knowledge — plenty of folks would find this learning process uninteresting or grotesque.

That's not the case for artist Colleen Galeazzi, who has a framed anatomical chart that labels limbs and body parts. For her, the human body is a work of art to be studied and celebrated, and this outlook can be seen through one of her latest sculptures: a skeleton constructed from broken instruments. This piece — and approximately a dozen others — will be showcased in a one-night-only exhibit titled The Note, at The Party Pedaler in NoDa on Oct. 19.

The skeleton piece is named "Carmyn," after a love story in which the protagonist plays a saxophone. At the top is a fake human skull, but the rest is completely pieced together with discarded instruments. There's a heavily used saxophone; clarinet, piano and cello parts; broken bows and a shoehorn. These different instruments and parts have been assembled in such a way that might make one have to resort back to an anatomy chart or model to decipher exactly what they're representing.

Galeazzi's day job is as a massage therapist at Varji and Varji Salon & Spa in Charlotte. "Going into massage, everyone asked, 'What brought you into massage?' I have always loved the human body — how it functions, how the systems work, and not just the muscular system. It's all very interesting, but for me, the skeletal system is the most interesting. It's how we walk, it's how we move and it's our range of motion. It's just too cool."

She began work on "Carmyn" last year and says she felt like a mad scientist while assembling the intricate sculpture, but has plans to make more skeleton sculptures in the future, continuing to use her primary medium of broken instruments.

"I would love to get my hands on something that Michael Jackson or Clarence Clemons owned and cherished and bring it back to their dimensions and their spirit and their charisma, as a tribute," says Galeazzi. "That's what I really want to do."

The creations don't apply to famous musicians only. Galeazzi hopes to gather other instruments from folks who have a loved one (deceased or not) and turn their instruments that are no longer being played into memorable works of art. An example of this can be found in a pump organ turned desk, given to Galeazzi by a woman who had fond memories of playing it with her grandmother.

Entering Galeazzi's house, a row of cellos hangs along the walls of the living room. But this isn't where the magic happens. In another room, Galeazzi's sculptures are spread out in mini-museum format. "Carmyn" hangs at the entrance and other pieces sit on the floor and along the walls. This includes one of Galeazzi's first styles of sculpture, dubbed "candle operas." For these, she took the keys from old upright pianos and assembled them to dangle along the walls with items like candlesticks and shoes from the 1950s attached to them.

Another piece consists of an early 1900s-era wheelchair, its seat occupied by a broken cello. The cello is busted and rough, with cracks and missing knobs. Strings hang like haggard hair.

For this particular sculpture, Galeazzi hopes to send a message about both differently abled people and first impressions. "People make first impressions — in the psychological mind of a human being, that is what we do — and it's good to have a first impression, but sometimes you shouldn't judge a book by its cover," she says. "Everybody has something beautiful about them. That's what my art is about."

Other pieces in the exhibit resemble animals, such as seahorses, a swan and an elephant. The swan is comprised mostly from a broken cello with displaced piano keys for wings, while the elephant's body is made out of a drum, the face and nose from the legs of old piano.

Galeazzi credits some of her influence in creating the detailed sculptures to her father, who worked as a general contractor and frequently brought home blueprints that she scanned, feeding an interest in angles and symmetry. She also credits the universe, nature, the human body and music as sources of inspiration in her work.

Examining the instruments in the room like a doctor giving a physical, Galeazzi explains how she feels that each instrument's former functions of being played in a bustling jazz club, strummed by a passionate musician or felt by a listener, is what should give it a kind of living immortality.

"My message is that, first of all, recycling is so important in this world, whether it be a plastic bottle or a broken instrument. Anything that is so beautiful like a broken instrument that cannot work anymore still has a purpose."

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