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artist mixed figurative, abstract
Puls / The Detroit News
ROYAL OAK -- Joseph Groppuso, a Detroit artist
who turned the turbulence of his life into haunting works, died Sunday,
Feb. 4, 2001, of congestive heart failure in Beaumont Hospital, Royal
Oak. He was 63. Mr. Groppuso's work was exhibited
in galleries in Metro Detroit, Traverse City and San Francisco. He mixed
figurative and abstract approaches. He once said that his paintings,
prints and sculptures explored the mystery of emotions.
"If it doesn't incorporate the human image in some
recognizable impression, then I'm not getting at what I want to get at,"
he once said. "It seems that the human condition is at the bottom of
what I'm trying to get at." Mr. Groppuso's dark,
deep-set eyes reflected the soul-searching nature of his work. Friends
recalled his broad smile, which stretched the deep lines of his face,
and the large hands, often stained with paint. "He
had such a love for life," said Bernadette Groppuso, his wife of 15
years. "He was my favorite person. He had a genuine kindness and made a
real connection with so many people. There was nothing superficial about
him. Art was his life." Tony Williams, a Detroit
artist, said Mr. Groppuso loved art and jazz and used elements of both.
"His work was very spiritual," Williams said. "It
seemed to be coming from somewhere else because it was unlike anything
else." Mr. Groppuso, a Detroit native, was a star
athlete at Pershing High School, playing football and basketball. He
began taking art classes in high school at the Detroit Institute of Arts
and later at the Center for Creative Studies.
Throughout the years, he worked at a variety of
jobs, including a stint at a rail yard to support himself while he
painted. A restlessness that characterized him
during his life led him in the mid-1960s to San Francisco, where he
worked at the Grande Ballroom and ran light shows for rock performers
such as Janis Joplin and The Doors. He returned to
Detroit, where he struggled with inner demons and personal addictions.
He once talked about the self-doubts of an artist.
"You have to find your own way," he said. "Finding
it is not the difficult part. If you do your work, it will lead you
there. What is difficult is having the courage and the strength to keep
it up and not doubt it when everybody else is doing something
different." During the mid-1980s, he lived in the
artistic and cultural community near the Detroit Institute of Arts and
Wayne State University while painting and working at Alvin's Finer
Delicatessen on Cass Avenue. Most recently he had lived and worked in
Honor, Mich., near Traverse City. Survivors
include two daughters, Rochelle Stark and Kirsten Cook; five
grandchildren; and a brother. Visitation will be
from 1-9 p.m. today in Bagnasco & Calcaterra Funeral Home, 13650 E.
15 Mile, Sterling Heights. A funeral service will
be held at 10:30 a.m. Friday in the funeral home, with burial in
Cadillac Memorial Garden, Clinton Township.
You can reach Mark Puls at (313) 222-2035 or mpuls@ detnews.com.