There’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that this week’s cover has special significance. It has a pervasive presence, speaking not only to the image’s subject and style, but also to the artist, James Del Grosso, who passed away in May of this year. At first glance, one prevailing reason for this presence is the pomegranate’s historically symbolic meaning, as major religions have attributed prosperity and fertility to the fruit.
Regardless of whether Del Grosso used religious themes in his work or not, there is still something spiritual about his celebrations of common objects, like a baseball glove, ball and bat, or everyday fruits, like apples. It is this celebratory concept that gives another kind of potent “presence” to Del Grosso’s art.
Del Grosso’s widow, Eve Eliot, becomes his voice in the following conversation.
Jim’s cover image is so powerful. What religious significance does the pomegranate have for you?
Did you know that the pomegranate has 613 seeds, standing for the 613 Commandments in the Torah? Also, some people say that it was a pomegranate, not an apple, that was the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden.
What do his paintings mean to you, religious significance aside?
I am looking at one of his small paintings in the kitchen now. [Now his works are larger.] It slows my breathe down. It shows the solidarity of the fruits’ fleshiness. It’s an iconic example of Jim’s work. It is a healing agent.
Was Jim interested in healing? Is that the quality he showed to people?
He told me he wants to be known through his work. He didn’t know about healing.
It’s ironic, perhaps, but you are a healer yourself, being a psychotherapist and a yoga specialist. You have written three publications: Insatiable, Ravenous and The Woman’s Guide to Enlightenment Through Shopping.
Yes, I started out being an eating disorder specialist in 1990 and then wrote those books, which might be considered self-help books. I still practice my specialties.
So, were you a healer for your husband?
When I was growing up, I always wanted to be a backup singer. I became a backup singer for my husband. I wanted to protect him, and that protectiveness accounted for his calmness.
And accounted for the calmness that his art evoked. But you and your husband were very different. What did he appreciate about you and visa versa?
He appreciated my eccentricities, my quirkiness, my intense personality. And I appreciated his calmness, stillness, his handsomeness, and what he called his “compassionate blue eyes.”
Talk about opposites attracting.
With opposites, one person has to give more than the other. It’s not an equal exchange. There has to be an “OKness” about it.
Talk about another kind of opposites: Jim started out doing abstraction when he was a student at Cooper Union. Then he joined VISTA and was an art therapist. After that, his style became realistic, although not Photorealism. How do you account for that?
I think about it, if his work in art therapy had to do with that. I do know that when he looked at his favorite artists, Cezanne or a Dutch painter, he would get up real close. He was always wondering how they could manage something, like the direction of the brush strokes.
How was Jim described as a painter?
His style was “Romantic Realism.” And he brought his painterly technique closer to the viewer.
Did Jim have a favorite statement he would repeat that was particularly meaningful to you? That said a lot about his life and work?
At one point in his development, Jim would do the same thing over and over again. One of his Cooper Union teachers would say “You have to do it until you’ve done doing it.”
James Del Grosso’s work can be seen at OK Harris (383 West Broadway, New York City), 212-431-3600. Contact Eve Eliot at 631-604-1693 to learn more about her husband’s work and to visit his studio.