Sunday, May 27, 2012

Meeting Mr. Danny B

I know that this is supposed to be a blog about comics, yet try as I might I can't come up with any way to connect what I'm about to write to that topic.  It is about art, however, and, as anyone inside the Columbus, Ohio alternative comics scene will tell you, comics are just as valid an art form as any, so there. 
Anyway, I find myself unable to decide between two leads for this piece, so I'm going to use them both.
1) In the wake of the rather dramatic rent increase accompanying the recent remodeling of my apartment, I've given serious thought to moving once again just as soon as I can set aside enough money to pay for the deposit/first month's rent.  Last night confirmed for me, however, that if I do move, I want to stay in this neighborhood, identified by a pair of arches on both ends as "Old North Columbus," so called because this area actually used to be a separate municipality named North Columbus until it was annexed by Columbus proper  sometime in the 1840s. (I jokingly refer to it as the CVS District, because on the corner by both of those identifying arches is a CVS/Pharmacy.) 
2) As I begin to write this, it is a warm Memorial Weekend Sunday morning.  The sky is, as my first girlfriend, Kelly, once said on a similarly warm and sunny spring day in the late 1980s, "...just the perfect shade of blue" and even the fluffy, white, non-threatening clouds that served only to add a touch of contrast to the azure expanse have drifted on.  Across Wilcox Street from my apartment building, two dozen or so paintings still lean against the south facing wall of Andy's Carry-Out.  If you were to come by right this minute, you could grab one or more of them to brighten up your own abode.  That is, after all, what they are there for. 
Ever since I moved here little more than a year ago, Jonathon Riddle and I had occasionally noticed these paintings on boards propped up against Andy's wall, prompting Jonathon to wonder just what the heck they were doing there.  He mused that perhaps some sort of tragic automobile accident had occurred at that corner and this was some sort of memorial to the poor victims.  Fortunately, the real story, which we learned on Saturday evening, is nowhere near that sad and bloody. 
We had just gotten in Jonathon's car to go to a party for a friend of ours , a fellow member of the Sunday Comix cartoonists group, who had graduated high school that afternoon when I glanced over and noticed a car parked by Andy's and a young man in shorts and a grey t-shirt pulling paintings out of the back seat and placing them against the wall.  I mentioned to Jonathon that if he wanted to know the meaning of those enigmatic paintings then this would be a good time to ask.  
That's how we met Danny, or, more properly, "Mr. Danny B," which is how he signs his work when he signs it at all.  "I'm not doing this to get famous," he told us.  Well, then he shouldn't object to me writing about him.  Nobody's going to get famous from being mentioned on this blog, where my page views stay pretty consistent at about fifty per day regardless of whether I post anything new or not.  Of course, one must wonder how much Blogger's stats can be trusted when they're telling me I had almost five hundred page views in the month before I even started the blog. 
Back to Danny B.  What follows is my best attempt, relying on my middle aged memory, to reconstruct the conversation, which might be easier if I hadn't had so much to drink at the party.  I wish I'd had a note pad or a tape recorder with me, but when I left my apartment, I hadn't planned on encountering anything worth writing about.
Danny told us a bit about himself and his art while never pausing in the task of arranging and rearranging the pieces against the wall of the beer distributor.  A lifelong resident of Columbus, he has been placing his works on that corner for about three years now, dating back to the time when he used to live in the Old North area, in, I believe, the very building in which I now reside.  He estimated that he's set outer some two hundred pieces during that time. Its his way of making the neighborhood, and the city, a more colorful and interesting place.  His form of street art is reaction of sorts to graphiti, which he dismisses, for the most part as not art.  Though he does admit that sometimes, in places such as under bridges or on train cars, it can indeed be worthy of the name.  Apparently, according to Danny, as long as the numbers on the side of the car remain visible, nobody will bother to paint over the graphiti.  I got the sense that he had delivered this talk before to others who'd wandered over to talk to him, curious about what he was up to.  Still, he sounded spontaneous and genuinely excited about what he was saying.
 When he lived here, he revealed, he used to watch that corner after putting out his latest display and observe as passers by would stop and look at the painting and perhaps grab one or two.  He chuckled as he said that the liked to imagine someone sitting in their living room and staring at one of his paintings while they were high.   However, alteration of your brain chemistry is not a prerequisite to appreciation of Danny's work.
A drummer in a local band which he didn't name, Danny told us that, late at night, when he can no longer practice his instrument lest he disturb the neighbors, yet his creative juices still run high, he will turn to creating what he calls his "splatter paintings" on found boards and bits of wood.  Many of them are enhanced by gluing on photographs of models taken from magazines or found objects.  He especially likes to work with used lighters, shell casings and remote controls.  To  hang them, he attaches lengths of old power cords or phone or computer cables.
One piece, strung with an old phone cord, painted in bright colors and adorned with a row of discarded lighters, a spent shell casing, a volume knob from an old stereo (I want to make a Spinal Tap joke here, but, unfortunately, this one did NOT go to 11.) and a rubber toy shark, similar to ones that I'd played with as a child, caught my eye and I picked it up as a quite literal last minute gift for our young graduate.  Jonathon picked out a mostly blue piece with a black and white photo of an elegant young model pasted pretty much square in the center for himself and cajoled the artist into attaching a rare signature to it with a rapidly drying out old Sharpie.
To wrap this up, and to tentatively tie it to comics, we later told Max Ink, founder of Sunday Comix as well as, more importantly to my tale, writer and artist of the acclaimed graphic novel series Blink, about our encounter with Danny.  Max's stories all take place here in Columbus, and he takes great pleasure in spotlighting the people and places that make this city unique and a great place to live.  One of my first thought as Danny spun his tale for us is that Max should meet this guy.  He might be able to use Danny in his comic somehow or, if not, at the very least the two could engage in a spirited discussion of art in general and it relationship to the life of this city.
Of course, I have no idea how to get in touch with Mr. Danny B, or when he might show up again with more paintings to put out.  I bet, though, that if I put a note on the telephone pole right there by Andy's on Wilcox, he'd see it eventually.  Hell, there's always the remote chance he'll stumble on this blog post.



    Notice the band members. Could that drummer be the same Danny B?

    1. Not even close.
      Danny Boyd of Six Foot Blonde is a heavyset bald man with a goatee who appears, based on his bio from the band's site (, to be in his late forties or even early fifties.
      The Danny B that Jonathon and I met a week ago Saturday was a blond haired beardless much skinnier kid about half that age.