That adorable elderly woman on the New York City subway might not have known she was talking to Jay-Z, but Jay-Z also didn't know that he was talking to Ellen Grossman, who's got her own throne in the art world, beyond any reasonable doubt. Maybe you haven't seen the now viral encounter — filmed as part of the hip-hop legend's new concert documentary — in which case, please watch the clip below pronto. Upon first viewing, the video might win your heart for one kind of appeal: Jay-Z Tells Old Lady Next to Him on the Subway That He's Famous. But once finding out (thanks to Reddit) that the "old lady" is one Ellen Grossman, the whole thing adds a whole new layer: Two Badass Ships Passing, to use the words of Redditor Christmas Sweater.
Grossman is a visual artist who another Redditor called "one of the coolest artists out right now." Her CV on her personal website confirms that others agree, with a long list of grants and accolades. And not that we're art critics or anything, but the stuff on her site looks pretty cool. She bases her sculptures and drawings off of topographical maps, satellite photos, electron microscope images, and astronomy. Like, awesome niche nerd stuff. That drawing to the right, for example, which is part of a series called Mapping Surfaces: The sense of touch as telegraphed by the sense of sight, which she describes as such:
Lines build up, revealing the topography of surges, shifts, eruptions, trickles, and the wind made visible. Time also flows, so I began recording the date, hour and minute at the start and end of each line and running totals. This is daunting and that's part of the point: Written numbers build up, forcing the lines to fan out, reading at first glance as a texture, radically changing the drawings. As in science recording observations can alter results.
The Jay-Z run-in and the subsequent viral video have also made Grossman into even more of a legend. "I have a zillion requests to be Facebook friends with people," she told Daily Intel's Joe Coscarelli. (Yes, she has a Facebook.) And look: We're writing about her right now, too.
Now that the two legends have met, Grossman is entertaining the idea of a collaboration with the hip-hop giant, she told Coscarelli. Her work with chain-link fences might go well with Jay-Z's aesthetic, she suggests. Those projects use "the negative associations with the chain link fence having to do with confinement and exclusion," she explained in this AOL video. Yeah, we could see that having something to do with what Jay-Z is all about. She sounds somewhat optimistic, too. "I don't think I'm capable of altering what I do to tailor to him, but I think there might be some intersection," she added.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.