THE BABY GRAND PIANO - 2004 - 2007

The Baby Grand Piano is a photomontage of 88 penises (52 white and 36 black) photographed and digitally assembled to make a 60-inch piano keyboard. Karalla studied the construction of a piano, took some 20,000 photographs over a period of two years in Southern Italy and New York City, and built the 7 octaves of the instrument.

In The Grand Piano, Karalla explores a key taboo, the penis. Some societies tend to view the penis as ugly and something that should not be seen, touched or even discussed. The Grand Piano encourages both participant and viewer to re-examine their relationship to this powerful subject. Women played an unprecedented role in banding together and bringing their men to Karalla, while the men themselves – as the faceless donors - were freed of identity and class. 

For the viewer The Grand Piano is an invitation to investigate not only personal but also cultural attitudes towards the penis, such as the question of circumcision, and the differences between rural Italy and urban America. Beyond that the work presents the viewer with a glimpse of prohibited knowledge, a forbidden fruit as timeless as that on the Tree of Knowledge that stood before Adam and Eve.  As such it encourages, dares even, the viewer to experience a moment of transgression in seeing a taboo image presented in a new context. As Karalla herself says, "As an artist, I am constantly exploring the barriers that Culture imposes. I ponder what would happen if these restrictions were to lose their hold upon us.  The Grand Piano is the result of this examination, through which I aim to create a community of transgression.”

Karalla works between the modern backdrop of New York City and the rural south of Basilicata, Italy. Between these two landscapes, the inhabitants participate in order for her projects to take on a life of their own.  Heavily draped in the Catholic order, Italy intertwines with its opposite, the land of freedom, New York City; her projects bring the communities of people together. The participants that are involved are also challenged, questioning their beliefs, cultural upbringing and identity within their community.