Traeger di Pietro and Messenger Man Spread the Word

“7a” Mixed media on canvas, 36 x 36 inches.

Artist Traeger di Pietro has a message he’d like to deliver. It’s one of positivity and love. And, appropriately enough, for the past several years, he’s been using a character called the Messenger Man to help spread the word. 


“The concept is that he’s the everyday guy — basically all of us,” says di Pietro. “And he also has magical powers to bring happiness, change time, bring colors, make wishes come true. He does everything positive.”


The image of the Messenger Man is intentionally ambiguous. Found throughout many of di Pietro’s paintings, and seen around the Island as the logo of an Oak Bluffs restaurant, the simply rendered figure is faceless. He wears a nondescript suit and a top hat, and carries a big red heart. 


“Thinking About It” Oil on canvas, 36 x 36 inches.

“There’s really no hierarchy, no specific gender,” explains di Pietro. “He doesn’t represent any economic class. It’s all about positive energy. That’s why I have him wearing a suit. It could be a hobo’s suit or a billionaire’s suit. Whatever kind of work you do, there’s a uniform — whatever it might be — business clothes or a chef’s hat. It’s just about showing up and getting the job done. There’s no hierarchy, no judgement.” 


Some of the paintings incorporating di Pietro’s signature image include scenes of the Messenger Man sewing stars together, pouring out tubs of various colors of paint to create a rainbow, putting hearts onto a conveyor belt. 


“The goal is to bring happiness,” says the artist. “I feel like we forget about the simple things — saying please and thank you, taking a deep breath and slowing down. There’s really no need to rush through life. There’s already enough baggage and negativity in the world.” 


The image holds some personal meaning for di Pietro as well. He explains that his first name, which is actually a German last name, means “the messenger” or “the carrier.” Furthermore, di Pietro spent 20 years working as a delivery person for a soda company on the Vineyard. 


“The Vineyard has always given me a great opportunity,” says the artist. “To get to this point in my career, I had to have another job. The fact that I could work from 7 to 3 every day allowed me to get to the point where I can be a full-time artist.”


Messenger Man works: Left, Mending; middle, The Line; right, Re ll; all 18 x 24 in., mixed media on canvas.

Furthermore, driving a truck proved beneficial to expanding di Pietro’s vision. “I love driving around and looking at things,” he says. “I’m still fascinated by something as simple as a fisherman sitting in a boat trawling. To be able to see all that while getting paid was invaluable.” 


Since stepping away from his day job, di Pietro has been very busy. For the past few years, he has been represented by both the North Water Gallery in Edgartown and the Field Gallery in West Tisbury. At  the former he shows his more traditional work — impressionistic scenes of Island life, while the Field Gallery is an outlet for his more fanciful work, featuring animals, mysterious figures and dream motifs, often playful — sometimes with a nod to surrealism. 


“Davincis fastball” Mixed media on canvas, 48 x 48 inches.

This summer the artist will show a new series of paintings at the Field Gallery. The images were inspired by di Pietro’s childhood passion for sports. “Growing up, I played baseball and made art at the same time,” he says. “There was a combination of sports and art.” Di Pietro has incorporated that pairing in his latest work, which features iconic artists on the ballfield, along with images evoking their artwork. The mixed media pieces are titled variously da Vinci’s Fastball, Picasso Ump and Who’s on First (featuring the work of the street artist Banksy).


The new series is characteristic of the playfulness of di Pietro’s work and his use of metaphor. The Messenger Man has remained his one constant symbol. “I’ve been incorporating him in my work for the past 15 years,” he says. “I just love the idea of a man in a suit and top hat delivering a message and the message is love. If everyone was delivering and receiving that message the world would be a much better place.”

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