Artist Marcus Glenn works in his studio in the Corktown neighborhood of Detroit. Glenn was raised by a father who loved jazz music and a mother who was a painter, both of which have had a profound influence on his life and his artwork. (Park West Gallery)
When they first got the call, Metro Detroit artist Marcus Glenn and his wife, Yolanda, figured someone was pulling their leg.
The Grammy Awards had called to say they wanted Marcus, and no one but Marcus, to create the signature artwork for this year’s ceremonies, which will take place Sunday evening.
“We thought it was a prank,” Yolanda says. “Marcus didn’t apply for it. There wasn’t any contest.”
But officials at the Grammys apparently had seen Glenn’s highly textured pieces dealing with music and musicians years ago and never forgot.
The canvas Marcus created for the occasion, “One Nite Outta This World,” features an old gramophone ringed by an endless, spiraling piano keyboard. It will appear on the official Grammy poster, program book and tickets.
And come Sunday evening, Marcus and Yolanda will be seated in the audience, doubtless pleased as punch, when the curtain goes up on the awards ceremony.
“Yeah,” he says. “I’m real excited.”
Not bad for the Redford High School grad who dropped out of the College for Creative Studies years ago to go work in Chrysler plants.
Marcus, 45, worked at McGraw Glass and the Warren Stamping Plant until quitting to do art full time around 2000. Now he finds himself in an exclusive fraternity with previous Grammy artists, such as architect Frank Gehry and 1970s psychedelic great Peter Max.
If his work looks familiar, you may have seen some of his pieces at Southfield’s Beans & Cornbread or at Detroit’s They Say Restaurant. Marcus also has a piece in the permanent collection of Detroit’s Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, though for the moment it’s back in his studio undergoing repair.
Marcus defines his work as part carving, sculpture and painting in a technique he calls “flat life.” He works on individual elements at his Detroit studio that he then glues together to create an unusually textured, three-dimensional surface.
“It’s a form of collage,” Marcus says, “but more technical.”
It’s also an exacting, time-consuming process.
“I probably work on five or six pieces at a time” Marcus says, “because there’s so much glue and texture. I have to give it time to dry.”
Marcus, who’s represented by Southfield’s Park West Gallery, already had an enviably successful career going before Los Angeles came calling, but this sort of national recognition can’t help but give a guy a boost.
Shortly after getting the Grammys nod, Marcus heard from rock legend Carole King. She had a fundraiser coming up and wondered if Marcus could do a couple portraits for her.
You bet he could. And he just finished them Friday.