See How Detroit Artist Marcus Glenn Is Moved by Music

 In Art & Gallery News, Artists & Special Collections, Marcus Glenn
"Playing for Love" (2019), Marcus Glenn

“Playing for Love” (2019), Marcus Glenn

There is nothing quite like jamming to your favorite tunes, and for Marcus Glenn, capturing that feeling, rhythm and soul is his goal as an artist.

Detroit is known for its rich heritage in music, earning it the nickname “Motown.” Everything from the blues and rock’n’roll to jazz and hip-hop has seen significant input from the city. Among its most noteworthy contributions to the music industry is its influence on R&B, soul, and jazz artists.

Glenn’s works are heavily infused with jazz, with many collectors commenting on how they can “hear” the music emanating from the artwork.

“Being a visual artist, you want to be able to capture the essence of what music is,” Glenn says. “The viewer should be able to feel the rhythm spilling off the composition of the canvas.”


Portraying Music in Art

Marcus Glenn at work.

Marcus Glenn at work.

The Detroit native considers himself a “figurative abstract” artist, meaning he loves to include figures in his compositions. With his jazz theme, the instruments and jazz artists in his works take on expressive forms depending on what Glenn wishes to portray. For instance, he believes the instrument and musician become one when they play.

“Visually I try to express that through the elongated styles and distorted shapes of the different instruments,” he says.

One example of the instrument and musician blending is his “Piano Man” character. In his mixed-media artwork, such as the massive “Piano Man Plays His Heart,” the titular jazz artist plays a heart-shaped piano, but a hole in the instrument reveals the musician. The idea is to represent how a musician bares his soul when playing.

“That is showing that he is playing his love, but he is exposing himself to his viewers,” he said.

“The Keys to a Dance” (2005), Marcus Glenn

Another element seen in his artwork is the representation of music belonging to everyone. In his Grammy artwork, for example, Glenn shows piano keys breaking away, floating into the air and into the universe.

“It no longer belongs to the musician, it belongs to the people who receive that music,” he says.


A Love of Jazz Music

“Three for the Groove” (2019), Marcus Glenn

Contrary to what his paintings may portray, Glenn isn’t a musician, but is a lover of jazz music. Glenn’s father was an avid collector of jazz albums. He recalls listening to his father’s music growing up and came to appreciate it as he grew older. Between this and his mother’s encouragement to pursue his passion for art, Glenn found his true calling.

“[Music] plays a major role because I find you can be very creative, and I find myself working faster when you’ve got on some nice good music,” he says. “It just helps the creative juices flow.”

“Piano Man Melts Your Heart” (2016), Marcus Glenn

Glenn says jazz became one of his favorite themes to portray in his “Flat Life” art. Like the musical style, Glenn is expressive and creative when depicting scenes of jazz artists. Splashes of color similar to Jackson Pollock’s “action painting” show the energy and sound of the musicians.

Glenn will often put on jazz music when working. So what jazz artists inspire Glenn?

“I like a lot of older, classical jazz, like Miles Davis and Coltrane,” he says. “Jazz is more relaxing for me, and I can get into some R&B and Motown too.”


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