Guy Danella, artistGuy Danella was born in Utica, New York, in 1928, the son of a prosperous tailor/furrier. (The fur store display windows with mannequins in the showcase would emerge as an important metaphor in much of his later work.) His artistic talent was recognised early and in1938, as a boy of 10, his father arranged for him to study with the noted mural painter and illustrator E.N. Clark. This was followed by more formal study at the Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute (MWPI) under the tutelage of William Palmer, Ed Christiana and Oscar Weissbuch. In those days MWPI was the meeting place for young artists and intellectuals such as Tony Mancini. Henry Coupe and Carl Himmeslbach.

From 1944 to 1945, he left Utica for the Art Students League in New York City, where he studied under Cameron Booth and immersed himself in Cubism. While in New York, he developed what became a life long interest and practice of eastern philosophy. Lin Yutang’s “The Importance of Living” had a profound effect on him. This questioning of who we are and the nature of reality shaped his life; the intuitive nature of the philosophy greatly influenced his later works. During this period he met Alfred Steiglitz and John Marin and became a regular at the American Place. Steiglitz gave him a key for free access to paintings and studio space for study.

Guy Danella, artist, in 1961After a brief stint in the US Army, just after the end of World War II, he returned to Utica and the MWPI, for additional studies with Oscar Weissbuch, learning “pure plastic construction”. At the MWPI, he worked as an assistant to the artist Joseph Trovato in the gallery. Increasingly influenced by the artist Paul Klee, he began to work in the Klee/Miro idiom.

In 1947 he returned to New York City, studying at the Hans Hofmann School of Art. Hofmann was to become a mentor and inspiration throughout the 50s and early 60s. His work reflects the tumultuous times he experienced in the post-WWII New York City art world as he struggled and experimented to find a unique direction. His work during this period presents us with the sheer intellectualism of “pure plastic art” to portraiture, illustration – and, much later, to his egg tempera memory-inspired musings.

He returned to Utica and opened Danella Studio which attracted artists and young intellectuals from the region. He exhibited at the MWPI’s “Three Young Uticans” show. One of his semi-abstractions, “Two Fried Eggs”, was purchased by MWPI for the permanent collection.

From 1951 to 1955 he was an undergraduate student at Syracuse University’s (SU) School of Fine Art. Upon graduation, he started teaching art in the Utica Public Schools and continued with graduate studies at SU where he studied with a master of abstract art, Josef Albers, (Albers personally commended and awarded him for his abstract paintings) as well as other well known SU professors including Claus Van der Sluis, Michael Andrews, Harry Randall and Mildred Landis. He was recognised, exhibited and awarded by Albers for a semi-abstract Red Gouache series of paintings. He also was recruited to be an adjunct professor of lettering at SU by Bauhaus alumnus Professor Pennig.

In 1962 he left teaching and opened Danella Arts Studio at 8 ½ Noyes Street. It became the center of an operation that reached national and international venues.

At 8 ½, a former stained glass factory, he produced everything from institutional portrait paintings and animated films to advertising brochures and educational textbooks. In 1968 he began illustrating for book companies with a fifth grade workbook with over 850 illustrations for Ginn and Company. He provided art services to art agencies and firms in the local areas such as Mohawk Airlines to firms in Syracuse, Geneva, Binghamton, and New England.

Some of his credits include ads and illustrations which circulated internationally as full page color illustrations in Life and Look magazines among numerous others. His services include direct mail pieces internationally distributed for accounts as Mohawk Data Sciences, Partlow Corporation, displays for Bausch and Lomb, Keepsake Diamonds, Hickock and others.

In the Utica area, he provided arts services for Anderson, Davis and Seeds, MacFarland Associates, Rumrill-Hoyt, Todd Displays, International Heater, MDS and Mohawk Airlines.

He provided posters for the NY State Department of Motor Vehicles, US Post Office, New York State Electric and Gas among others. His animated cartoon service included 16MM motion picture films and television graphics. He prepared a series of 20-second TV commercials for Oneida National Bank and Mohawk Airlines.

Throughout the 70s and 80s, he illustrated books and magazines for Ginn & Company, Boston/Lexington Publishers, McMillan, Bantam Books, Allyn & Bacon, Children’s Digest and DC Heath. In the 80s, he revolutionized the concept of the campus and town-view maps – most notably for Colgate University, Hobart William Smith and Hamilton College – with his use of finely detailed, pen and ink illustrations.

dad_sketchIn the 1980s he discontinued commercial work and became increasingly concerned with the nature of reality. In these works emerged an underlying theme: the dichotomy between what is real and what isn’t. Searching to find his place in the world and how he related to others in that search within his art, he abandoned abstraction and devoted himself to figurative, representational and metaphysical approaches to painting. Although he continued attracting portrait and painting commissions, he began painting in egg tempera, the medium of the old Italian masters of the 14th century. Using this demanding technique he created images depicting the contrasts in human emotions, and the exquisite true-life portraitures are recognized as museum award compositions. ‘Ann with Cello’ captures his mastery and artistic excellence of the genre. In 1988 Clinton Art Center Exhibition it was awarded the James Penny Memorial Prize, the Joseph Trovato Memorial Award – and ‘Carla in Guilford’, in pencil and tempera was awarded the People’s Choice Award.

These paintings have been described as using a detailed ‘magic realist’ technique of egg tempera to create a systematic appraisal of a visionary memory embellished with cross-referenced details. To relieve the innate pathos of nostalgia he introduces a certain levity by populating his personal ‘haunts’ and ‘shops’ with animistic surrogates. Like many Italians born at the turn of the century, Danella’s father was an anti-cleric and a Mason, and though both Danella and his sister were educated in Catholic schools, many of his paintings combine scepticism with a fascination with the traditions of religion. Geometry orchestrates his compositions with mystic tension while it creates a pattern of harmony.

Over a productive work span of over 70 years, he worked as a freelance artist, illustrator, cartoonists, portraitist, mural painter and fine artist. He received awards in each of these fields and his work has been published nationally.

Through the 1990s until his death in 2006, Danella continued to paint what came to be called ‘metaphysical paintings’, a term he was not entirely comfortable with. Asked what to call his work, Danella replied, ‘Intuition maybe. The images come from the painting. Metaphysical implies a plan.’