Frank Pietronigro

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Frank Pietronigro is an interdisciplinary artist, educator and author.

Arts, cultural and humanities in space[edit]

Frank is the first American artist to create "drift paintings" where his body floated within a three-dimensional painting that he created in zero gravity aboard NASA's KC135 aircraft.[1] On April 4, 1998, Pietronigro flew from the NASA Johnson Space Center, aboard a KC135 turbojet, to create ‘drift paintings’ as the artist's body floated within the 3-D kinetic painting space facilitated by parabolic flight and microgravity. He appropriated modernist painting conventions using similar techniques employed in abstract expressionism but with the intention of having very different outcomes within a postmodern situation. Pietronigro painted by squeezing rainbow colored acrylic paints from pastry bags into the space surrounding his body. A 75-inch-high (1,900 mm) by 48-inch-wide (1,200 mm) by 52-inch-deep (1,300 mm) plastic bag was tethered to the interior of the jet using bungie cords and Velcro. This creativity chamber, as the artist called his studio, was to contain the floating paint while allowing for free-float body movement within the space. Before flight Pietronigro filled 10", 14" and 18" pastry bags with acrylic gel medium, at the viscosity of toothpaste, and then he used these tools to project the paint into the space surrounding his body.

“Drift Painting’ is not relegated to a static two-dimensional surface like the traditional paintings created by painters up through the time of moderism. What results with 'drift paintings' in weightlessness are paintings with an infinite number of view points from which the kinetic compositions are evolving simultaneously, each in accordance to all points of view from which the work is viewed. It was never the intention of the artist to paint directly on a canvas but it was his intention to paint directly in the air and allow the paint to float and form its own composition. The artist indeed had a canvas placed within the space, titled Document 34; but, the artist considered this zero gravity painting as a research document on which the paint floated and dropped as gravity returned with each fluctuating parabola. This process fosters a revolutionary step in the tradition of painting as the process dismisses linear perspective, the fixed point of view, a convention that has been used by painters since the Renaissance. Microgravity was an environmental contributing factor in the development of these ‘drift paintings’ and serendipity, not the hand of the artist, orchestrated the results.

The traditional paint stroke was liberated from its containment to a particular time and space, in contrast to it being placed onto a canvas, because it now drifted with a momentum of its own, along with the body of the artist. As a matter of fact the process of ‘drift painting’ is zero gravity eliminates the art object completely other than the canvases which trace the remnants of the live painting experience. The actual artwork can be directly experienced only within the microgravity situation or through video presentations – a copy of the art cannot be made and the actual work is vitalized only within the space of zero gravity. Consequently, the commodity has been replaced by ritual action that was created by Pietronigro with the intention of fostering stronger community ties between artists and space scientists. The social and institutional structures that changed to support the dynamic interdisciplinary process are as important to manifesting the art as the energy of the jet.

Zero Gravity Arts Consortium (ZGAC)[edit]

Frank Pietronigro is Co-Founder and Project Director of the Zero Gravity Arts Consortium. The organization was Co-Founded in 1999 by Laura Knott, Lorelei Lisowsky and Frank Pietronigro. Zero Gravity Arts Consortium (ZGAC) is an international space arts organization dedicated to fostering greater access for artists to space flight technology and zero gravity space through the creation of international partnerships with space agencies, space industry entrepreneurs, arts and science organizations and leading universities. ZGAC is the first organization of its kind, based in the United States, that is facilitating parabolic flight projects that will help in the international effort to set the stage for teams of artists to have permanent access to space transportation systems including the International Space Station. ZGAC supports arts, humanities and culture in space education, international outreach and conference programs that are being organized as a way for artists, from all over the globe, to affiliate with us and experience the possibilities of collaborating with space flight technologists.


Frank Pietronigro is an Associate Fellow at the STUDIO For Creative Inquiry, College of Fine Arts, Carnegie Mellon University and serves the space art community as one of the coordinators for Yuri’s Night Bay Area 2007/08 held at NASA Ames Research Center. Yuri's Night is a collaboration of many different communities and professional sectors coming together to honor the achievements of humanity and create a regenerative vision for the future. This astonishing music, video, arts, science, performance celebration takes place in various locations around the world but Frank Pietronigro specifically support Yuri's Night Bay Area that takes place at NASA Ames Research Center on the tarmac and surrounding aircraft hangars. Yuri's Night parties across the globe will celebrate humanity's first entrance to space on the anniversary of Yuri Gagarin's flight in 1961.

In 2006, he was Co-Chair of the Space Art Track of the 25th International Space Development Conference, Co-Sponsored by the National Space Society and the Planetary Society. His work was featured in Space News in a feature titled ‘Artists Hope to Create New Science Fiction with Zero-G Flights;’ in the Sunday New York Times Arts and Leisure, Fortune Magazine, a cover feature in the San Francisco Art Institute Magazine, Hot Wired and Leonardo Magazine, an Massachusetts Institute of Technology publication of the International Society of Arts, Science and Technology.

Pietronigro’s work was presented with museums and institutions worldwide and this interdisciplinary artist has been awarded multiple San Francisco Arts Commission Individual Artist Commission Grants; a National Space Grant College and Fellowship Program Award; a Sobel Memorial Scholarship from the San Francisco Art Institute; a Creativity Certificate of Distinction from Art Direction Magazine; and a Merit Award from the Society of Communicating Arts, during their 32nd Annual Exhibit of Advertising and Design. Pietronigro studied at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, the Multimedia Studies Program, San Francisco State University, and he received his Bachelor of Fine Arts, in Interdisciplinary Arts, from the San Francisco Art Institute in 1996.


  1. ^ Laird, Cynthia (2008-08-21). "News in Brief". Bay Area Reporter. Retrieved 2010-09-24. 

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