The window on Moore Street cheerfully declares “hello sonshine” in tidy orange print and appeared at the beginning of spring. Beneath is a yellow setting sun, a wide expanse of green blue cresting wave, frothed with white foam, the image taking up most of the central window pane. A whale tail blends in on the horizon, along with a tidy white sailboat and fronds of palm. It’s a residential address, not a business, an unusual spot for window painting. The art is tagged as by Lizz, with the incongruous instagram tag “fun ghoul 30,” and a sad looking cartoon ghost.
A visit to this instagram page presents an aesthetic in shocking contrast to the optimistic greeting of the season, artist Lizz Grasso, a self-described androgenous goth-punk-hipster. A licensed cosmetologist, personal shots reveal the artist clad in black, heavily stylized, immersed in a micro culture. Graphic black lips and heavy eye makeup. Moody shots of cemeteries. Stylized portraits with candles. Out and about at shows with friends.
Hair Vyce is a salon in West Philly that specializes in natural stylings for people of color and vibrant hair dye jobs. Their instagram is rich in hue and curated with snappy graphics offering special events and the smiling faces of their satisfied clients, hair newly coiffed and transformed.
How did these seemingly disparate pieces all come together? A year ago, Hair Vyce was celebrating their 5th anniversary. Despite a lack of experience with window painting, Grasso was given the chance to decorate the salon window. She explains, “I’d been creating and experimenting with as many types of art forms as I could get my hands on throughout my life, so I felt up for a new challenge.”
On her instagram and website there are incredibly realistic detailed drawings, small flat text-based paintings, and simple, graphic embroidered and hand painted patches. “I don’t think I’ve found a distinctive style of art that is recognizably mine, says Grasso. But this has allowed her to pick up window painting work that can be antithetical in both materiality, and message, to her personal expression, as varied as it is.
Grasso is pragmatic about the necessary differences. “My window artwork is colorful, firstly because that is what my current clients request, but also because bright colors are eye catching and easiest to see on glass. My clients have told me that passersby will stop to take photos of my work, and even tell them that my artwork makes them happy every time they walk by. I’m thrilled that I can bring a little color and joy into a city that can sometimes be a bit grey and dreary. However, I would LOVE to have the opportunity to paint something darker/spookier/closer to my heart someday.”
Although challenging, Grasso appreciates the process and necessary though to successfully create a window painting, and it is so different than her pencil drawings or stitched text. She is accepting commissions, but is ambivalent about the medium. She admits “I become very frustrated with life and feel trapped and diminished whenever a job or schooling has taken up most of my time, leaving me unable to create.”
The house on Moore street is a privately commissioned work. The painting took Grasso nearly 5 hours to complete, and the “Hello Sonshine” is a reference to the nickname the client has for her child. Perhaps as summer progresses into autumn, Grasso will be commissioned to create window in the neighborhood more in tune with her gothic aesthetic, and the incongruity of the artist and her clients will be resolved. Until then, Grasso continues on, experimenting, creating, finding her vision as she obscures and augments windows.