Angels in the City

I Am TCB (1990). Oil on banner cloth. Artwork and text copyright Danny Grosso.

I am flying low, down toward the lights that run up again on the sides of the buildings; lights yearning for the heavens, for my roost. I am a watcher, I am an intervener, I am taking care of business, and there is much of it. Pan the camera back and upward and you see a Van Gogh; blue night sky, yellow light below. Art up above, but down here, it’s all business.

I can hear them thinking, mulling, obsessing in their own heads, and I can’t divulge their minds without undermining my dignity, so I am alone – with their thoughts. However, I can say that their thoughts are much like my surroundings as I descend among the edifices. Disjointed phrases, random words, emphasized, lots of exclamations, some sentences fading into the fog.

I am here for this, for them, though there is often little I can do. Most of them don’t believe in me, so they would dismiss my specter as a migraine symptom. Those that do believe would be too shocked to survive an encounter. The small mercies I can offer without alerting them are often overwhelmed by the enormity of the world they built. There are so many of them now, and so much light, and noise, and mindlessness, and worry; and war, that quiet persuasion is most often lost among the milieu.

Still, I descend from the limitless sky each night, on this eternal watch, reading their signs, reading their minds, choosing, doing. I am marooned in this vocation, a heavenly being somehow glass-ceilinged. I can go everywhere but I am going nowhere. I am notable but unnoticed.

Thank heaven for the artists, or there would be no sense of me at all.

Danny Grosso

Out in the Street I

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Skyscrapers Through a Window on a Rainy Day (2020). Acrylic on board. Artwork and text copyright Danny Grosso.

When the rain comes down in sheets, and the time of day is just right, all the windows become paintings. Drip lines spread and bleed into one another images form and fade, color advances, all to the soundtrack of a far away crowd, applauding. That’s what it sounds like, applause, if you are wont to think about it that way, and perhaps that’s fitting, for a hard rain is transformative.

After the deluge, as you walk outside, colors are more vivid, and the scent is intoxicating.  A low hush is punctuated by latent rain drops, leaf to leaf, branch to sidewalk. The city is swept clean by the heavens, and the living things, grasses, flowers, humans, reach for the sky in rejuvenation, in thankfulness.

Cities, maybe all places, are like the artists living within them; they thrive upon renewal.

 

Danny Grosso

Red

Red Angel (1992). Oil on canvas. Artwork and text copyright Danny Grosso.

There was this thing back then, about reconsidering open spaces, when the era of pavement was getting old, and people where looking for green environs; but I saw red. Was there a phoenix within the wheat fields, or is that an angel rising? It might be Christmas morning among the poinsettias, but then again, those that Frannie sent lasted past Easter, and this heavenly ghost is wearing white. I put the paint on the canvas, big as a wall, and kept going. More red, more red, and my studio was saturated in its reflection, like a nightclub off Times Square, or the inside of an Italian glass goblet. Her wings like a Deco butterfly, she ascends to the heavens, (also red), enraptured like St. Teresa, yet somehow stuck in the modern world; maybe it’s the the cut of the gown, or that design element of anchored dress tails.

A long time ago, all of this was thrilling.

Danny Grosso

On the Set – 2007

Scenery from the set of The Unborn (2009) artwork and text copyright Danny Grosso,

Scary movies aren’t so very frightening while they are being filmed, excepting perhaps The Exorcist, where the set was allegedly rife with spooky happenings. They let me go crazy in 2007 on the sets of The Unborn, which was released two years later, and the only scary thought was whether we’d finish the distressing of the rooms in time for shooting. In fact, we were just adding a little atmosphere to the auditorium-like site, with scrapers and house paint. The real conjuring came from the director and production staff, who melded actors, incremental mechanical movements, and lighting into a film that gave moviegoers nightmares.

Danny Grosso

Beginnings – Blue

Cafe Bal (1985). Oil on Canvas. Artwork and text copyright Danny Grosso.

I don’t even have a good photo of it anymore, and it found a home so long ago, that my memory maybe fading, but I just remember wanting to paint that blue, to get that color that I could taste and feel onto the canvas for safekeeping. The girl, well, I was young and outgoing and that’s what I saw every night, on the dance floors, and after…

-Danny Grosso

Beginnings – Newsprint Fingers

Cover of the Loyola Phoenix – Loyola University’s weekly newspaper, 1983. Artwork and text copyright Danny Grosso.

One of several covers I created for the Phoenix from 1982 through 1984. This was a scene of commuter students gathering at the Student Union and Cafeteria. I am second from left, reading the paper, of course.

Danny Grosso

Beginnings

Untitled (1984). Published in Cadence, the Loyola University (Chicago) literary magazine, Spring 1984. Artwork and text copyright Danny Grosso.

The start of something new, the ready embrace of a new aesthetic, or sort of new anyway, as there was already Memphis Design, and further back, Bauhaus, and Art Deco, to capture the searching eye. But this was new to us, and therefore self-righteously ours, and artists live for renewal, and we dove in with our pencils and paints, guitars and synths, sewing machines and scissors.

Seeing the world as we wanted it to look, and to be, provided the inspiration to create, and dedication to craft provided the responsibility to create well. And then there was something else just floating in the misty morning air, that feeling of change, that is possibility, that is hope, that got us out of bed even on mornings that followed the darker nights.

There was a newness in morning itself, after what seemed like a decade of twilight. And on the morning sidewalks, I’d see people gathering, dancing, busting; horseplay really, and then someone new would pass by, wearing something new, looking different than anyone ever passing by before…

Danny Grosso

Into The Wilderness

Union Pickets – into the Wilderness (1990). Watercolor on paper. Artwork and text copyright Danny Grosso.

Just outside Spotsylvania, in the first week of May, 1864, the Union Army crossed the Rapidan River and entered what would come to be called the Battle of the Wilderness, the first of a series of horrific battles that, over the next year and through attrition, would vanquish the Confederacy. The casualties on both sides from this point on would be so high that even those in support of the war, those leading troops to the grinder, began to question their own will to continue hostilities. The shadow of this doubt was darkest over the long Virginia nights that May, when the forest floor kindling, set alight by the the aftermath of exploding shells, grew into firestorms that consumed the screaming wounded strewn about the battleground, unable to move.

One might think this horror would have satisfied the human hunger for war, but the Union campaign proved to be only a rehearsal for World War I and much of the killing to come in the following century. The Union Pickets that first arrived on the scene, as above, were likely hardened by more than three years of war, but still could not have understood the template they were about to establish for conflicts to come. The bloodbath waiting for these pickets suggests that their ignorance might have been a blessing to them.

Danny Grosso

The Slip Kid

The Slip Kid Up There (2018). Acrylic on Paper. Artwork and Text Copyright Danny Grosso

The Slip Kid wore his grandfather’s cap

as he wandered under the sun.

Slipping in and out of shadows and under the shade of trees

the Slip Kid imagined himself light as the breeze.

If as light as the breeze – I should fly he would say,

like a bird I could spend the rest of my day.

Then he slipped for a moment into a dream.

The Slip kid was in a place unforeseen.

Slipping into the clouds and out of the realm

of the ground dwellers he knew so well,

he glided about after awhile with ease

though he felt at first like a boat on uneasy seas.

After a while he thought he’d need something to do

so the Slip Kid slipped behind the moon.

What a great expanse he saw from there.

The planets and stars dazzled his eyes

and he took off his cap for a moment in reverence

until he felt suddenly lonesome and less adventurous.

He slipped back away and out of his dream

and the Slip Kid opened his eyes to a scene

as wild and beautiful and any he’d seen

while on his excursion to the upper extremes.

Green meadows and forests, lit cities at night,

and loved ones who danced about with delight.

Shadows moving along with the day,

sidewalks and pathways to direct the way.

All the things he needed to play,

so long as his imagination was allowed to stay.

So the Slip kid pulled down the brim of his cap

and slipped into the day and never looked back.

-Danny Grosso

More Recent Commissions

Untitled (2022). Acrylic, spray paint, and ink on cardboard roundel. Memorial commission for a client. Artwork and text copyright Danny Grosso.

Another recently delivered commission, this one honoring two of the client’s friends who passed away last year.

Danny Grosso